Tesco’s apprenticeship scheme ensures bespoke training for employees. Liz Morrell reports

When Rafeeq Ahmed applied through an agency for an apprenticeship engineering place he had no idea that the company offering the position was Tesco.

“I was surprised when they said it was Tesco because I wasn’t aware it did these apprenticeships and I was excited because it’s a big company and it has a big foothold,” says Ahmed. He joined after completing his GCSEs at college and hopes to progress up through the company.

Nyah Harris applied for an apprenticeship place through a specialist website so knew who his potential employee was to be. “Tesco is a giant so I thought it would be the best company to apply for,” he says. He had been studying electrical engineering at college when he applied.

Both joined the retailer in January and are now working as Tesco maintenance apprentice engineers in Dudley and Leicester respectively. They are two of the 100 apprentice engineers taken on by Tesco since the beginning of the year when the retailer introduced an apprentice scheme to attract new talent to its business.

The recruits have joined the maintenance division, which services the retailer’s 2,000 plus stores. “Our aspiration is to have more technicians in store. At the moment we have about 500 to 600 but we are trying to grow that to 800,” says Ian Backhouse, change programme manager at Tesco Maintenance.

As well as on-the-job training with a Tesco maintenance engineer, the apprentices will also attend a three-year day release engineering course at their local college from September. There they will work towards an NVQ Level 2 Engineering Apprenticeship before moving on to the Level 3 Advanced course.

Backhouse says the scheme offers huge opportunities for apprentices because of the scale of Tesco and the fact that the maintenance division reports to the property division of the company.

“Some people will make a real career of this,” he says. “[The maintenance division] reports through to the property division so it’s up to the apprentices where they can possibly get to.”

But why invest rather than outsource? Backhouse says that is simply Tesco’s culture. “Like the rest of Tesco, we like to grow our own people and make the training bespoke so that the apprentices know Tesco really well,” he explains.

More apprentices will be taken on at the end of the year. “We are very pleased with the success we have had with this so are looking to take in more people and then have a regular intake,” says Backhouse.

So how are the new recruits finding it? “It has been really enjoyable,” says Ahmed. “It is better than I thought and I am looking to go as far as I can,” agrees Harris.