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Tesco calls for apprenticeship reform

Tesco said a reform could increase the number of apprentices by up to 50%, resulting in an additional 8,000 opportunities across the retail sector

A reform to the Apprenticeship Levy could lead to an additional 8,000 new apprenticeships across the retail sector every year, Tesco has said, with 500 apprenticeships created at Tesco alone.

A new report for the group, produced by Public First, outlines the supermarket’s contribution at a national level and in every constituency across the UK, and reportedly enables the group to “identify the actions that will have a lasting positive impact on its customers, colleagues, and communities”.

Tesco said that one key finding was that “simple reforms” to the Apprenticeship Levy could “get thousands more young people into employment”. 

It added that strict rules on how funds are spent mean that businesses like Tesco are currently unable to use the Apprenticeship Levy for any broader training, short courses or to “ensure we can equally offer apprenticeships across all store types”.

In light of this, Tesco is calling on the government to “urgently” take action and increase flexibility for businesses to make better use of the levy.

The group is proposing three reforms:

  • Allow up to 10% of Levy funds to be used to support high quality pre-employment and pre-apprenticeship programmes.
  • Allow funds to be spent on high-quality shorter courses.
  • Allow 10% of Levy funds to be used to cover a portion of apprenticeship costs outside of training. This would enable smaller stores and companies to significantly expand the amount of apprenticeships they offer.

It said this “flexibility” would also allow Tesco and other retailers to offer more tailored training courses, helping more people learn retail-specific skills. 

It added that this would also enable Tesco to offer courses that develop pre-employability skills or functional skills like English and Maths, whilst boosting productivity by expanding the number of apprenticeships that smaller stores could offer.

With this support, Tesco concluded that the retail industry could increase the number of apprentices by up to 50%, resulting in an additional 8,000 opportunities across the retail sector. 

Ken Murphy, Tesco CEO said: “This report shows that what we do as a business has an impact on everyone around us, not just our customers and colleagues, but also the local communities we operate in. It is fantastic to see the contribution of Tesco so far, but I know there is more we can do and we are absolutely ready to play our part as the UK rebuilds following the pandemic.

“There is a real opportunity here to boost jobs growth, after one of the most challenging years. What we’re asking for is simply the flexibility to use the Apprenticeship Levy to its full potential and give young people the valuable skills, training and experience that will translate into better opportunities in their careers.”

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