The Co-operative Group has opened a £9 million Apprenticeship Academy that will offer opportunities in all areas of the business, including corporate IT.

The academy aims to provide 2,000 jobs over the next three years, and its mission is in line with the government’s agenda to boost the number of apprenticeships in IT across different industries.

In addition to IT, the Co-operative will also provide the UK’s first-ever funeral industry apprenticeships, while placements will also be available in business areas such as food, farming, pharmacy and financial services.

Placements will be available across the UK, and will equip apprentices with a nationally-recognised qualification. They will also have the opportunity to progress onto the company’s Management Development Programme.

“Through our new Apprenticeship Academy, we are offering young people across the UK proper jobs with qualifications and real career opportunities. With a quarter of our employees under the age of 25, eventually we want to make them all apprentices and I would encourage other big businesses to follow suit,” said Peter Marks, the Co-operative’s group chief executive.

John Hayes, minister of state for further education, skills and lifelong learning, added: “Funding is in place to support some 360,000 apprenticeships this year alone – and by the end of this Parliament, my aim is to deliver the greatest number of apprenticeships in this country’s history.”

The Co-operative employs around 370 IT professionals, and its CIO Ian Dyson last year told CIO UK that the company preferred to rely on in-house expertise rather than outsourcing.

Dyson said that Manchester, where the Co-operative is based, has an excellent IT talent pool. He also believed that developing its own team of expertise has ensured that systems can be run at a cost the business is happy with, and that the company can create its own technology, such as its electronic point-of-sale (Epos) system, to sell to the market.

More information on the apprenticeship scheme can be found here.