The National Skills Academy for Retail (NSA for Retail) has announced a new training programme which will match small and medium-sized retailers with a suitable apprentice at little cost.

The Retail Apprenticeship Scheme (RAS) aims to address retailers’ perceptions that 16-18-year-olds are low skilled. A survey commissioned by the Retail Apprenticeship Training Agency (RATA), which manages the scheme, found that only 10% of retailers had offered apprenticeships under government schemes in the last five years, often due to such perceptions.

Under the scheme, apprentices will be employed by RATA, thereby reducing the risk, cost, time and administration for the retailer.

Each young person will be fully assessed and given extensive pre-employment training to ensure they are job-ready.

RAS is open to all independent retailers in England. Retailers just need to place a vacancy with RATA and NSA for Retail will do the rest.

Jane Rexworthy, chief executive of NSA for Retail, said: “This is a brand new approach to apprenticeships, with RATA recruiting, training, assessing, and looking after all the HR issues for each learner. Employers simply pay a small weekly fee to cover agency and apprentice wage costs.

“Opportunities will be created in all areas of the retail sector – from developing entrepreneurial skills from business owners, to working as part of a marketing, IT or finance team, to joining an independent shop where learners will be given the opportunity to gain all of the skills necessary to run an independent retail outlet.”