By Daniel Hunter

The Co-operative Group is set to recruit 800 new apprentices — double the number recruited last year - it announced in conjunction with National Apprenticeship Week.

Four hundred young people were recruited to The Co-operative’s Apprenticeship Academy — the most diverse scheme of its kind in the UK - during 2011, and is on track to provide 2,000 apprenticeships for young people by 2014.

The £9 million academy offers young people transferrable skills, competitive salaries and qualifications - not just a job. It is The Co-operative’s vision that eventually all new recruits under 25 will be part of the Academy.

The Co-operative Apprenticeship Academy forms a major part of the Group’s drive to inspire young people and support their future life goals and ambitions and is a key element of The Co-operative’s ethical plan.

The 800 apprenticeships on offer this year will be based within one of The Co-operative’s businesses which range from food, pharmacy and motors to legal and financial services and farming, as well as many corporate functions such as IT and HR. This year will also see the launch of the UK’s first ever funeral industry apprenticeships.

“Youth unemployment is spiralling with over one million 16 to 25 year olds out of work. Coupled with the unpredictable economic future, it’s no surprise that some young people feel unsupported and demotivated," Peter Marks, Group Chief Executive of The Co-operative Group, said.

“We believe businesses have a real responsibility to open doors for young people by giving them opportunities to gain new skills, knowledge and experience so that together we can build a strong and successful future for young people and our country."

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