With youth unemployment now over one million, The Co-operative Group is calling on businesses to do more to support young people and help them get a job.

In response to increasing demand from graduates, The Co-operative has increased the number of places available on its Graduate Leadership Programme from 19 to 27.

This follows the launch of The Co-operative’s Apprenticeship Academy earlier this year, which will provide 2,000 jobs for young people over the next two years right across its diverse family of businesses, including food, financial services, pharmacy, funerals and farms.

The Co-operative has also introduced two new graduate programmes to its portfolio. It now offers graduate roles across four different functions – HR, Retail Operations, Business Management and Finance. The Co-operative’s Graduate Leadership Programme has also been recognised in The Top 50 Companies for graduates to work for in 2011*.

Rachel Rotherham, The Co-operative’s Graduate Programme Manager, said: “The expansion of our graduate programme reflects The Co-operative’s commitment to inspiring young people and tacking the shockingly high youth unemployment in this country. In such a challenging economic climate, it is really tough for all young people, including graduates, to find a job and we would urge other business to take similar action by increasing the number of opportunities they offer young people.”

The Co-operative Group works closely with universities throughout the UK to help undergraduates develop their employability and increase their chances of gaining employment after they graduate. Skills sessions run by The Co-operative Group at universities across the UK have had very high attendance levels from students.