High street fashion chain Next is set to launch an apprenticeship scheme which will offer up to 1,000 young people a chance of a career in retail.
The FTSE 100 retailer is in the process of hiring 500 apprentices - but might double that number if there are enough suitable candidates, the Independent on Sunday said.
The scheme is a first for Next and will be supported by the National Apprenticeship Service. It will provide an NVQ Level 2 apprenticeship, with those completing it qualifying for a bonus.
The move will come as a boost to the Government which, in the face of rising unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds, has set aside £500 million to help tackle the one million young people classed as not in education, employment or training in the UK.
Next chief executive Lord Wolfson said it will not be possible to judge the scheme's success for at least six months when the performance of those recruited can be measured.
He said: "The key objective here is to get these people really good in their jobs and we hope they will have a career in retail, but it is very early."
Next has been working with Pera Training, which has worked with Jaguar Land Rover on a similar apprenticeship scheme, since last November.
Lord Wolfson said that retail is a business where many directors and chief executives started on the shop floor.
"You don't have to have an academic background to succeed in retail," he said.
"This is about getting away from the idea that you need a degree to have a successful career. We hope to show that someone training from the age of 17 without a degree can succeed."
Lord Wolfson said that Next is also looking at apprenticeships in distribution and warehousing as possibilities for the future.