Two years after a local co-operative started offering apprenticeships, more than 80 of its colleagues have taken up the opportunity.

Southern Co-op is celebrating the success of its apprenticeships which are all continuing during the pandemic with 12 colleagues having completed their programmes in 2020.

With apprenticeships taking 13 to 24 months to complete, the qualifications take hard work and determination but colleagues are supported throughout by Southern Co-op – the independent, regional co-operative.

Linda Masterman, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Southern Co-op, said: “It is important to us to make sure all of our colleagues have the opportunity to develop their skills and apprenticeships are the perfect way to do this.

“We have so many hard working colleagues across our retail stores, funeral homes, coffee branches and at our head office. The success of the apprenticeships scheme is further proof of this.

“It’s been a tough year for everyone but they have managed to juggle work and complete a qualification and never given up – although I’m sure at times they felt like it. Well done to everyone involved.”

With Southern Co-op’s head office based in Portsmouth, six of its head office colleagues have completed the Operational/Departmental Manager Level 5 apprenticeship with five of those achieving a Distinction grade. A further three colleagues have completed qualifications with the Association of Accounting Technicians.

In its branches of The Co-operative Food, there have been nine duty managers who have completed the Retail Team Leader Level 3 apprenticeship with six of those achieving a Distinction grade. Three of them have already been promoted to Store Manager.

Stores where retail colleagues have been taking part in apprenticeships include Poole, Alderholt, Freshwater, Newbury, Sandown, Wickham, Hill Park in Fareham, and Moggs Mead in Petersfield.

Colleague James Knott completed an Operations/Departmental Level 5 which led to a promotion to Availability Manager.

James said: “The best bit was actually putting the theory into practice the following day when I returned to my day job. For me this was the best way to learn, without question and in my opinion beats my university education.

“To others thinking about taking up an apprenticeship, I’d say ‘just do it’! Do not underestimate the energy and effort it takes to learn alongside a full time management role, but the benefits completely outweigh this. It is tough, but the reward is great.”

Apprenticeship opportunities at Southern Co-op include Retailer Level 2 for customer service assistants, Retail Team Leader Level 3 for duty managers and Funeral Team Member Level 2 for funeral assistants and co-ordinators.

Southern Co-op also offers other job specific qualifications that can be funded through the apprenticeship levy, such as apprenticeships in HR, project management, customer service.

To find out more about roles at Southern Co-op, which operates more than 250 food and funeral branches across the south of England, visit