The Co-operative Group has launched an Apprenticeship Academy, which will create 2,000 jobs over the next three years.

Apprentices 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 funeral industry apprenticeships.

Apprentices will work towards a nationally recognised qualification and can progress onto the group’s management development programme.

Group chief executive Peter Marks says: “With youth unemployment hitting the highest rate in nearly 20 years and almost 1m 16-25-year-olds out of work, it’s a really tough time to be a young person in Britain.

“We believe businesses have a real responsibility to help motivate and inspire young people by giving them new opportunities to gain the skills, knowledge and experiences to be pioneers for their generation.”