Co-op CEO Steve Murrells

A new Co-op (@CoOpuk) commissioned report from  University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research (@WarwickUni) reveals greater flexibility in funding could create more apprenticeships and opportunities for young people. 

Co-op CEO could offer ‘hundreds more apprenticeships’ in the Co-op’s food and funeralcare businesses, unlocked by reform of ‘Apprenticeship Levy’, Murrells also calls out for change which ensures more apprenticeships created within SMEs, as figures suggest a decline.

Co-op CEO Steve Murrells opened a round-table on Thursday 26 November with representatives from the Department for Education, National Apprenticeship Service, National Society of Apprentices and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. The conversation will focus on a brand new report, commissioned by the Co-op group, into the national apprenticeships programme with recommendations on change to government policy.

The 38-page report, prepared by the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research (IER), considers the many differences between apprenticeships across sectors and employers, despite the standardised routes to government funding.

It analyses programmes across both the food retail and funeral sectors specifically –  as examples, both delivering key services during the pandemic - to understand how businesses can take different approaches to recruitment, training and operations as they face into their own sector’s challenges. The report includes interviews with business leaders, the British Retail Consortium and the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Steve Murrells has shared the report in full with the Department for Education this week, as part of his role in the Department’s Business Engagement Forum.

The study found that, across businesses:

  • Compared to the funeral sector, food retail colleagues are more likely to be female, older and work part-time, based in smaller businesses. 
  • There are far more apprentices in the retail sector (10,885) than the funeral sector (782).  However, the number of retail apprentices has fallen by about a quarter since 2014/15 whereas funeral sector apprentices have doubled over the same period.
  • Almost nine out of ten funeral sector apprenticeships were at Intermediate level compared to 59% in retail.  Around one in five retail apprenticeships are higher level (Level 4+).
  • The funeral sector and food retail sector alike are seeing job roles broaden. In the funeral sector, there is increased workforce flexibility, and digital technology is impacting.  Part-time and temporary working is likely to continue to rise; staff are undertaking a wider range of job functions; digitisation of organisational processes, customer communication and remote access funerals are likely to increase.

On the report, Steve Murrells said: “Currently, we offer 1,200 apprenticeships across the Co-op. These colleagues are based across our group, from our support centre in Manchester right through to the frontline in UK high streets, in our food stores and funeral homes. I’ve seen how their energy and new ways of thinking helps us to achieve a better way of doing business.

“Giving people the opportunity to make their mark through an apprenticeship can drive social mobility and help tackle the persistent inequalities in our society. That’s why I champion apprenticeships and also why we want to work with the government, following this report to future-proof the apprenticeship policy. We want to help address how the national programme can better accommodate different needs, business to business, apprentice to apprentice.”

One aspect of the national apprenticeship programme most likely to come under discussion as part of the round table is the government’s long-standing ‘Apprenticeship Levy.’ Businesses with an annual wage bill of more than £3m are currently required to contribute, with the opportunity to utilise these same funds to spend towards training their own apprentices. As it stands, the Levy covers the required direct training and assessment for each apprenticeship, but not all aspects, such as the mandated 20% off the job training.

Peter Dickinson, Senior Research Fellow at Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research said:

“Of those we spoke to, there is widespread need for apprenticeships to evolve, so that more opportunities can be delivered. The levy doesn’t currently cover the training some young people need just to qualify for an apprenticeship, or the additional training that can futureproof a young person’s career, like key digital skills, despite the fact this training is becoming increasingly important. As employers cover these costs, the number of apprentices they can afford reduces.

“Also, we identified that small and medium enterprises are taking on fewer apprentices. It was originally 50% in 2018, but dropped to 43% last year. There needs to be some sort of levelling, so that all businesses of any size can create important opportunities for young people.”

Murrells added: “The levy helps ensure apprenticeships are prioritised by businesses in England, creating opportunities for individuals and communities to enable social mobility in a sustainable way. This study shows us that companies in these two sectors alone have very different approaches, working with different apprentices with different needs – a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach just won’t work.

“As the pandemic continues and need for flexibility increases, the levy is holding employers back, of all sizes, from being able to increase the number of apprenticeships they can create at this critical time.

“We could offer hundreds more apprenticeships, particularly in those parts of the country hardest hit by the pandemic, following some simple changes to the current policy framework.”

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Maliha Safiullah has published a new article: How to Get a Scholarship: 10 Tips for Success 2 hours 49 minutes ago
AELP Webinar Team added a new event 4 hours

Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers – Refresh 2021

Overview It has been nearly two years since the ESFA refreshed the current Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, therefore it is time for...

  • Thursday, 14 October 2021 10:00 AM
  • Online

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page