Next has launched an apprenticeship programme, set to recruit 1,000 new employees.

The Next Retail Apprentice Programme is being launched through in-store ads and an internet campaign.

The retailer hopes the training scheme will help challenge the view that the sector is based on low skills.

Next said the programme has been welcomed by the government, which has committed an additional half a billion pounds to apprenticeships.

Currently just under 28% of UK employees qualify for an apprenticeship compared to 51% in France and 65% in Germany.

The 6-month programme will be run by Pera Training, and once completed candidates will gain a Level 2 Apprenticeship.

Skills Minister, John Hayes MP, who last year announced a major drive to boost skills in the retail industry, backed by additional cash for training, said: “This is yet more good news for our apprenticeship programme and marks another important milestone. This form of training has been long established in manufacturing with recent schemes announced at leading companies like Jaguar Land Rover and defence contractor Thales.

“The commitment by Next to train 1,000 young people using modern apprenticeships is great news and shows the flexibility and versatility of the apprenticeship. I look forward to hearing more about the Next programme and perhaps in the future meeting some of the young people who have been recruited and qualified under the programme.”