The Co-operative Group is to recruit 800 new apprentices this year, twice as many as in 2011, to be based in one of its businesses, which range from food and pharmacy to farming and funerals.
The firm's £9 million apprenticeship academy is on track to provide 2,000 places for young people by 2014, it has been announced.
Peter Marks, chief executive of The Co-operative Group, said: "Youth unemployment is spiralling, with over one million 16 to 25-year-olds out of work. Coupled with the unpredictable economic future, it's no surprise that some young people feel unsupported and demotivated.
"We believe businesses have a real responsibility to open doors for young people by giving them opportunities to gain new skills, knowledge and experience so that together we can build a strong and successful future for young people and our country.
"Through our apprenticeship academy, we are offering young people across the UK proper jobs with qualifications and real career opportunities.
"With a quarter of our employees under the age of 25, eventually we want to make them all apprentices and I would encourage other big businesses to follow suit.
"The professionalism and enthusiasm shown by all of the apprentices we have recruited so far shows just how much young people have to offer.
"There are so many young people looking for opportunities such as this and we have been overwhelmed by the hard work and commitment our new apprentices have already shown in their roles."
The announcement comes ahead of National Apprenticeship Week from next Monday.