Sainsbury’s has relaunched its graduate programme, taking on fewer graduates but with the aim of promoting them more quickly to senior roles.

The programme, which will take on 20 graduates, has been named the 2020 Leaders Programme and the grocer said it wanted the scheme to “identify the next generation of business talent”.

Sainsbury’s said the aim was to attract the type of business leaders the company will need in 2020, and is attending careers fairs at Oxford and Cambridge universities in November for the first time. A spokesman said it hoped to attract the type of candidates that would otherwise have gone into management consultancy, law and banking.

There are fewer places available than for the 2010 cohort of graduates, when the grocer took on 46 people, although the starting salary has increased from a maximum of £26,000 to £32,000 a year. The new scheme will employ people in three areas – operations, commercial or people.

The graduates will start with four months in a store over the Christmas period, which Sainsbury’s said would teach them about how stores work and customer service.

That will be followed by a series of projects across the business, working with different directors
at Sainsbury’s.

During the second part of the programme, graduates will move into a series of management positions and lead a team of their own.

Customer service and colleague director Gwyn Burr said the scheme differed from other graduate placements because of the access it gives to senior directors.

Burr said: “Unlike many other graduate schemes, Sainsbury’s graduates will enjoy regular access to directors and other members of the senior management team. This, alongside the skills they will quickly develop, will equip them with everything they need for a successful career.”

The grocer is also recruiting for paid placements of 12 months, six months or the summer period.