George at Asda has thrown its weight behind the training and education of fashion students with the launch of an open-house Education Day and a fully funded university programme.

George managing director Andrew Moore said: “We are really committed to education and want to drive more skills and training. There are so many young people looking for opportunities and, as well as trying to help as many as possible with jobs, we also want to help them learn about all the roles available in a fashion company.”

The Education Day will be held at George’s head office, George House, in Lutterworth in Leicestershire on March 31. About 70 tutors and careers advisers from colleges and universities across the country will be invited to learn about the career options for 16- to 24-year-olds through activities including workshops.

“We’ll have presentations and the chance to talk to the people in these roles,” said Moore. “Most people know what a fashion designer is, but they don’t necessarily know what a merchandiser is, and that’s why we need more understanding.”

George will also launch a learn-while-you-earn university programme in August, which it said is the first of its kind by a retailer. It will give four college leavers the opportunity to study for a Foundation Degree in Retailing at Manchester Metropolitan University while taking up salaried positions at George.

Asda people director Caroline Massingham said that the George programme will provide a much-needed platform, as “the tough economy has led to rising youth unemployment, fewer university places and increased funding costs for university courses”.

George will also sponsor Graduate Fashion Week this year for the first time, showcasing the design talent from fashion graduates. Moore said: “We’re looking at ways of broadening Graduate Fashion Week beyond design into other areas such as merchandising, buying and more technical skills to showcase other careers.”

Graduate Fashion Week runs from June 5 to 8.