Tesco will put bakery at the forefront of its extensive two-year recruitment drive, which is expected to create 20,000 new jobs.

A company spokesman confirmed that a large proportion of the new jobs will focus on bakery, in addition to fresh produce, fresh meat and counter services.

The supermarket chain released a statement this morning (5 March) saying it would “invest significantly in additional staff hours and training to boost the customer experience”. Tesco is the country’s largest private sector employer with over 290,000 staff and 70,000 young people under the age of 25 – almost a quarter of its workforce.

Richard Brasher, UK chief executive, said: “In unprecedented economic conditions like these, major businesses have a big responsibility to step forward, invest and create jobs.  Today’s announcement is a huge shot in the arm for the UK economy.

“At the core of this investment is our determination to deliver the best shopping experience for our customers, bar none.  We will invest in more staff on the sales floor at busy times, greater expertise and help in the crucial areas of fresh food, and enhanced quality and service across our stores at all times.

The supermarket chain is also looking to tackle the country’s high youth unemployment rates by more than tripling current vacancies on its apprenticeship programme - from 3,000 in 2011 to 10,000.

Brasher added: "With youth unemployment at record levels, we’re determined to target many of our new jobs at young people currently out of work – so that in this difficult jobs market those who need help the most will get it. Our investment is a win-win for customers, unemployed young people and the UK economy as a whole.”

Tesco launched its first bakery apprenticeship scheme last year – designed in partnership with Improve, the Sector Skills Council for food – in a bid to train existing staff already working at its in-store bakeries. In total, 225 apprentices studied for 12 months for a City & Guild Level-2 Certificate for Proficiency in Baking Industry Skills.

Speaking to British Baker last year, Nick McGlashan, apprenticeship manager at Tesco, said: "The apprenticeship schemes we’ve had in other sectors have proved to be a good springboard into management. This is an end-to-end scratch bakery apprentice-ship with 12 different workbooks. It’s a robust qualification.”