Tesco colleague

Tesco has called for urgent reform of the Apprencticeship Levy to help create 8,000 new apprenticeships.

The supermarket believes that simple reforms to the Apprenticeship Levy could get thousands more young people into employment. It said that strict rules on how funds are spent mean that businesses like Tesco are currently unable to use the Levy for any broader training, short courses or to ensure it can equally offer apprenticeships across all store types.

Tesco wants the government to take action and increase flexibility for businesses to make better use of the fund.

It comes as a new report for the retailer, produced by Public First, sets out its contribution at a national level and in every constituency across the UK and allows the company to identify actions that will have a lasting positive impact on customers, colleagues, and communities.

The report states that, working across its extended supply chain and support for local economic demand, Tesco supports £53 billion for the UK economy, and nearly one million jobs.

Young people, and particularly those in lower-affluent areas, have been disproportionately affected by pandemic, Tesco pointed out. Against this backdrop is the revelation that in the five months to January 2021, the number of apprenticeships declined 18 per cent year on year, with 36,700 fewer places.

Tesco said its ambition is to increase the opportunities for young people to start their careers and build valuable skills, and it is proposing three reforms:

- Allow up to 10 per cent 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 per cent 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.

The supermarket said this flexibility would also allow Tesco and other retailers to offer more tailored training courses, to help more people learn retail-specific skills, such as driving. It would also enable Tesco to offer courses that develop pre-employability skills or even functional skills like English and Maths, as well as boost productivity by expanding the number of apprenticeships that smaller stores could offer.

It believes that with support from government, retailers could increase the number of apprentices by up to 50 per cent, resulting in an additional 8,000 opportunities across the retail sector.

Chief executive Ken Murphy 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.”