Waitrose has begun its programme to find the future leaders of the business through a three-year graduate scheme.

The first intake of eight graduates on the scheme, which Waitrose unveiled last year, have joined the retailer and it this week opened applications for next year’s programme.

The initiative allows graduates to spend time working across various functions that board directors oversee.

The eight graduates, all of whom are women, will work in Waitrose supermarkets, convenience stores and retail services over the next year.

Next year they will be based at head office and in the third year the graduates will choose to return to a branch or remain at head office.