House of Fraser, JD Sports, Jigsaw and Tesco are among 12 British retailers supporting what is thought to be the first apprenticeship degree for retail leaders.

Due to launch next year with at least 400 retail employees, the new Retail Leader Apprenticeship Degree has been developed in partnership with RetailTrust, the trade charity for the retail sector and supporting service industries, and the UK government.

The level 6 degree is designed to help organisations to develop their employees. The programme enables businesses to enhance their offer of a career in retail and widen the search for talented people who will see the retail industry as a career of choice, according to RetailTrust.

The degree will also helps companies make the most of their apprenticeship levy funds. Over the four-year programme, retailers can claim back up to GBP22,000 (US$28,115) of their levy funds per student.

Apprentices will work full-time while studying towards the Bachelor of Arts degree, accredited at their chosen university. The programme aims to develop their strategic, technical, managerial and leadership retail skills.

Academic learning is integrated with practical on-the-job experience, combining face-to-face training days with online learning, research and assessment activities. Business projects, negotiated with employers, offer the apprentice the opportunity to apply their learning directly to their organisation and its business context.

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“We are thrilled that the brand new Retail Leader Apprenticeship Degree has been approved for delivery next year,” says Amy Prendergast, head of people and vocational learning services at RetailTrust. “The programme is the first of our supported degrees developed collaboratively with the industry. We have 12 retailers on board and would encourage other businesses to make the most of their levy funds and develop their next generation of leaders.”