A new scheme to help retailers and market traders to recruit talented apprentices is set to be launched across the UK this summer.

The Retail Apprenticeship Scheme (RAS) was piloted last year in a select number of cities but will now be rolled out nationwide to retailers of all sizes – from family businesses and market traders to shopping centres and national chain stores.

The scheme, developed by the National Skills Academy for Retail, will be launched to coincide with Independents’ Day on July 4, a national campaign which gives a voice to the UK’s independent retailers by encouraging people to shop locally and celebrate diversity on the high streets.

RAS – which aims to meet the increased demand for a pool of skilled young retail trainees – has been given the backing of a range of trade associations including the British Independent Retailers Association

and the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders.

Jane Rexworthy, Head of the National Skills for Academy for Retail, said the pilot scheme had proved that there was a strong appetite for retail apprenticeships.

“RAS was initially set up to help smaller, independent retailers and market stall holders to take on talented young apprentices, without having to worry about any HR or administration issues. We have already created apprenticeships at retail businesses in cities including Manchester, Lincoln and Sheffield, and felt that the time was now right to roll the programme out nationally.

“We are also opening up RAS to retailers of all sizes, from independents who may wish to take on one apprentice up to chain stores and national groups where there is a desire to create a whole cohort of apprenticeships.

“We have received great support for the scheme from organisations such as the NMTF and BCSC which understand the benefits of taking on a RAS apprentice – the quality of delivery, high levels of support, a boost in productivity and ultimately a reliable and skilled member of staff.”

Jane Rexworthy said that while a large percentage of SME retailers could be interested in taking on an apprentice, many were hesitant due to fears over how long it would take to set up and the additional support a young person would need.

“The aim of the Retail Apprenticeship Scheme is to take away all these fears and remove the barriers for retailers in taking on an apprentice,” she said. “The core benefit of RAS is that the apprentice is employed directly by us – this reduces the risk, cost, time and administration for retailers.

“We also manage the whole recruitment process, preparing the young people for their new roles with training in core retail skills and matching up each business with a suitable apprentice.

“There is even an option for smaller businesses to share an apprentice, further easing the burden of cost and responsibility.”