Retail apprenticeships reached record levels last year, with 5,900 awarded in England in the academic year of 2008/9 up 31% from the previous year, according to figures from Skillsmart Retail.

Announcing the start of Apprenticeships Week (February 1-4) Skillsmart patron Theo Paphitis said that apprenticeships were good for employers and good for businesses, and urged all retailers to think about the "enormous value" they can deliver.

Skillsmart Retail's chief executive Anne Seaman said: "Retailers regularly tell us that apprenticeships work for them as they allow their staff to learn on the job while getting the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to excel. I would urge businesses of all sizes to find out more about the benefits they can bring."

Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes that take between six and 18 months to complete, depending on the employee's work experience. In many cases government funding is available to support employers.

Find out more about Retail Apprenticeships at