The Co-op has created a levy share opportunity to support apprenticeships for individuals from under-represented groups.


The Co-op is a large company of over 56,000 employees which has been in business since 1844. Co-operative businesses are owned by their members who have a say in how they are run meaning the Co-op is accountable to its members and not its shareholders. Its unique selling point and vision is to ‘Co-operate for a Fairer World’ for colleagues and the communities in which it operates. The Co-op is made up of different businesses including food retail, Funeralcare, legal services and insurance.


The Co-op partnered with C2C in 2022 to provide colleagues within their Funeralcare business a fantastic development offer that’s simple and easy to access. There are currently 425 colleagues in learning across all business areas with 190 colleagues achieving an apprenticeship standard in 2023. This includes the Level 2 Funeral Team Member and Level 3 Funeral Director provided by C2C.



The Apprenticeship Team said: “C2C provided us with support and guidance throughout a robust subcontracting arrangement within our Funeralcare business which enabled us to successfully deliver an external audit and Ofsted to meet our obligations to deliver a good quality programme. As we moved to a full provider delivery model, we were confident C2C would provide us with the right level of support to enable a smooth transition with minimal impact to our colleagues on programme.


C2C has tutors with extensive experience in a niche industry, and they share their knowledge in a way to suit the individual needs of each of our colleagues. The virtual delivery also suits the needs of our colleagues and the business area in which they work.


The Co-op, including its Funeralcare business, goes above and beyond to support their apprentices. The talent acquisition and development team are always on hand for support, and internal training is provided on the care of the deceased, the benefits of embalming and other products and services they offer. This adds a bespoke Co-op angle to their products and services and encourages apprentices to talk with confidence and be open and honest about the product and its cost. 

Regular visits are made available to local churches, crematoriums, and cemeteries to upskill apprentices in the facilities available to them. Part of the apprenticeship is knowing and understanding competitors and how the Co-op compares. As part of the on-the-job training, learners can research competitors and use this information for their apprenticeship. Client conversation training is offered to all apprentices to help them gain confidence when talking to those grieving. Infection control and safety training is also offered to ensure the working environment is of the highest quality and mental health First Aid training is regularly rolled out across Funeralcare.

Ensuring their apprenticeship programmes are robust is important to the business and the funeral sector, and to show their dedication and support to the wider community, they have chaired the Funeral Services trailblazer group. Roz Milligan, the Lead Talent Acquisition and Development partner, has dedicated time to chair the group since its formation. They developed the initial funeral standards by working in collaboration with other funeral businesses to ensure they had an apprenticeship standard which was fit for purpose by supporting the sector in developing existing and aspiring colleagues.

To further support the community, the Co-op has identified a way to collaborate with like-minded partners to pledge unspent levy funds and share them in a way that supports apprenticeships for under-represented groups. The business has created an online matching service where donating employers will pledge what they are able from their levy account that would otherwise expire creating a combined pledge fund. The Co-op has an ambition to close the ‘opportunity gap’ in apprenticeships for individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds and other areas where there is under representation.

The Co-op Academies Trust was formed in 2011 and since then, it has grown to more than 30 schools and colleges. The Trust is an education charity that exists to run and improve schools, raising the aspirations of the communities it serves.

Co-op also partners with the Talent Foundry to help young people from underserved communities discover what they are amazing at, develop valuable employment skills, and prepare for the world of work. They are founded on two core beliefs, and these underpin all their work. They believe that everyone has something they can be amazing at. They need to discover what that is, and they help them do that. They believe that all young people deserve equal opportunities in life, regardless of their background or financial circumstances. 

As for future goals, Apprenticeship Delivery Partner Rob Crabtree said: “We are committed to further developing our apprenticeship offer within 2024. We have already added approximately 10 additional apprenticeship standards within 2023 (some of these being new and exciting opportunities which we have never delivered previously). We envisage 2024 will see our offer grow further and exceed our 2023 growth and we have some exciting plans to enable this.”