The Connell Sixth Form College in Manchester is to become the first in the UK to offer students part-time, paid work as part of their studies. 

It means students can study at the college, but also work one day a week as a paid apprentice at the Co-op’s National Support Centre in Manchester. And because of the co-op member’s vote on pay in 2017, young people will receive a living wage and not the  minimum apprenticeship wage of just £3.70 .  

The experience will be similar to that of a junior doctor, whereby apprentices will have access to many parts of the business in order to help them judge which areas of work and study they feel best suited to. 

The Co-op, already offers 16 year olds leaving its academies the opportunity to become an apprentice, but this is the first time that teenagers will be able to continue their sixth form studies, while also working as an apprentice. 

This  innovation, is the latest from the Co-op Group, who are demonstrating that there is a different way of doing business, and now they are extending that ethos to education. It breaks down the traditional view that there is binary choice of academic or vocational education, with the often seen as an inferior option. The Tory government policy of increasing fees for students, and removal of education maintenance allowances and student support, means that many young people are looking for a different path forward.  

Frank Norris, Director of the Co-op Academies Trust said:

“By providing a great education, Co-op Academies are changing the lives of thousands of young people and helping transform the communities in which they are situated. 

“The Trust has demonstrated that co-operative values and principles, strong governance and the ability to leverage the support of the Co-op in areas such as brand, communications, property, insurance and IT, can have a dramatic impact on student outcomes.” 

In 2015, it was revealed that 60,000 students were employed in non-skilled posts and almost 16,730 graduates were out of work six months after leaving university. 

Education needs to reflect the mix of academic and vocational skills that young people will need in an ever changing workplace of the future – the co-operative movement is taking the first step.