John Lewis offers degree scheme
It plans to introduce a Level 6 vocational qualification, equivalent to an honours degree, by the end of this year, aimed at staff in senior management roles. This is in addition to the retailer's existing qualification programme, which allows workers to progress from entry-level qualifications.
Other sectors of industry already offer degree opportunities as school leavers - deterred by tuition fees - shun university in favour of the workplace.
John Lewis personnel director Laura Whyte said: "There is an old-fashioned view that retail doesn't offer people long-term career opportunities, but that is just no longer the case.
"Our partners give us our competitive edge, and if we want them to stay with us for the long-term, we need to make sure that they have the right skills to meet the challenges we face in an evolving retail environment."
Last year, 1,330 John Lewis partners achieved a retail diploma, with a third picking up a Level 3 qualification, the equivalent of A-level standard.
The business, which is the UK's largest example of worker co-ownership, has 84,700 staff and operates 39 John Lewis shops and 290 Waitrose stores.
John Lewis managing director Andy Street told The Sunday Times: "Whether you're 16 or 18, more people are going to want to go into the world of work rather than further or higher education. And that's what used to happen - many of our best leaders joined at 18."