Asda is the latest employer to offer a fully funded degree course for school leavers alongside paid work at their company.
The scheme is to be offered by the supermarket’s clothing brand George, which has just opened applications for its “earn while you learn” programme, which will begin this August.
Four successful candidates will study for a foundation degree in retail at Manchester Metropolitan University, while taking up salaried positions at George’s head office in Leicester.
George said the scheme was part of its efforts to identify future leaders early, and it hoped that the initiative would help position the organisation as “an employer of choice” among students.
The company explained that it was launching the programme at a time when many perspective students were worried about next year’s hike in tuition fees, and were reconsidering the affordability of gaining further qualifications.
Caroline Massingham, people director at Asda, said: “The tough economy this year has led to rising youth unemployment, fewer university places and increased costs of funding for university courses. I am proud and very excited that the George clothing business is working harder than ever to support Britain’s youth at a time when many employers are cutting back or reducing graduate schemes.
“This George retail foundation programme will provide the much needed platform for the 1 in 5 students who will not make it to university places and offers the opportunity to gain much needed work experience, earn a regular income and at the same time gain a university qualification,” she continued.
“This represents a significant step change in the market, is leading edge in its thinking, and will provide the much needed sponsorship to ensure that young people are enabled for future job roles.”
The two-year foundation degree will involve 28 hours of learning each week, split between work-based assessment, peer networking and reflection, and online study.
Successful candidates will supplement their learning with a 12-month rotation of various George departments at its head office. At the end of the two year course, recruits will get the opportunity to “top up” their foundation degree and continue on to a full BA Hons qualification, while continuing their career at George.
Steve Bainbridge, director of the Retail Enterprise Network at Manchester Metropolitan University, added: “This is a really exciting initiative that is helping to push the boundaries of UK graduate education. We look forward to working with George to help nurture and develop the next generation of retail talent.”