The big four are among 100 businesses from across the food and grocery sector that have pledged to reduce youth unemployment.

Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s will be offering unemployed 16 to 24 year-olds CV and interview skills masterclasses, site visits and job search advice this September as part of a wider initiative to create 12,000 pre-employment training places in 1,000 locations across the UK.

Feeding Britain’s Future, driven by research and education charity IGD and in partnership with Jobcentre Plus, aims to give young people the skills and confidence they need to pursue careers in retail. Major retailers joining the big four include Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, The Co-op and Poundland.

Companies involved in farming, manufacturing, retail, wholesale and food service, such as Coca-Cola Enterprises, Diageo, Mars, Unilever and Nestlé UK, have also signed up to the initiative, which will run during Skills for Work Month in September.

At a reception in Westminster yesterday, leaders from across the food and grocery supply chain pledged their support to what is believed to be the largest ever industry drive to offer free pre-employment training for unemployed young people.

Speaking at the reception, Matthew Hancock MP, minister for skills, said: “It’s our place and our responsibility to make sure that young people have the opportunities, character, wherewithal, skills and attributes to take on those jobs as they’re created.

“Feeding Britain’s Future brings together the whole industry all the way from the ground to the plate.”

Joanne Denney-Finch, IGD chief executive, said: “The food and grocery industry is Britain’s largest private sector employer, accounting for one in seven of all jobs, employing 3.7 million people. It is an industry in which it’s possible to run your own successful business or start from the bottom and get to the very top - even with very few qualifications.” 

IGD’s trial of Feeding Britain’s Future, carried out last year, found 98% of young participants were more likely to consider a career in retail and felt more confident about applying for jobs after taking part in the scheme. Of those surveyed, 99% rated the training as good or excellent. 

In addition, 14% of participating companies offered job interviews to the young people they mentored and 18% offered work experience opportunities.