Justin King: It's vital that we invest in the next generation

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The Independent Online

This week saw another generation of school leavers achieve excellent A-levels after years of hard work.

But what are the prospects for those who choose not to go on to further education? The economic outlook is challenging and youth unemployment remains a serious problem.

At Sainsbury's we are acutely aware of this issue, and we have a strong track record in training and developing school leavers.

On Thursday we launched this year's trainee manager programme which, over a year, equips applicants with the skills to run a Sainsbury's store. Since March 2011, 250 of our colleagues have successfully completed the scheme.

Take the example of Joe Hunt, now a store manager in Oxford at the age of 23. Joe completed his A-levels and chose a career with us instead of university. He's put in the hard yards, proving experience and initiative can be just as valuable as a degree.

Joe is one of 150,000 people who work for Sainsbury's, and by 2020, we will have created 50,000 more job opportunities.

So whether it's engaging people who have lost faith in the jobs market, or attracting those who would rather experience the university of life, we have a responsibility to inspire young people and provide opportunity for them to flourish.

Given our current economic and social challenges, there has never been a more important time to invest in the next generation of great Britons.

Justin King Sainsbury's chief executive