This week marks the UK’s National Apprenticeships Week, designed to raise awareness of apprenticeships and the positive impact they can have on individuals, businesses and the UK economy as a whole.
Prime Minister, David Cameron has thrown his weight behind the scheme and called on employers, educators and MPs to expand apprenticeship opportunities.
The PM is keen to ensure teens view apprenticeships and university education equally as ‘the new norm’ for the young people of Britain.
Forecasts indicate apprentices could add a further £3.4bn a year in economic gains to the UK and Mr Cameron believes such schemes will give school leavers "the chance to learn a trade to build their careers" and develop "a truly world-class, highly skilled workforce that can compete and thrive in the fierce global race we are in".
"Our drive to reform and strengthen apprenticeships, raising standard and making them more rigorous… means that an apprenticeship is increasingly seen as a first-choice career move," he added.
"But we need to challenge ourselves to go even further. That is why I want it to be the new norm for young people to either go to university or into an apprenticeship.
"We need to look at how we can expand apprenticeship opportunities so that they are available to all young people who are ready and eager to take them up and aspire to get ahead in life."
Whilst providing valuable work experience to young adults, equipping them with the skills to forge a long term career, apprenticeships also benefit businesses.
The National Audit Office (NAO) reported that for every £1 of public funding, Advanced and Intermediate Apprenticeship schemes generate estimated economic returns of £21 and £16 respectively.
Support for apprenticeships is noticeably increasing in the private sector too. This week, Barclays announced an expansion of its national ‘Bridges to Work’ programme, designed to help firms find and employ apprentices with an overall goal of securing work for 10,000 young people.
Barclays announced it would also be doubling the number of apprentices it employs to 2,000.
For a number of years SMEs have hesitated to take on apprentices for fear of time constraints, red tape barriers and the level of support required for each young person. However, the financial rewards for businesses are clear.
Visit the National Apprenticeships week website for more information on how firms can get involved.
Image: Ben Fisher/GAVI Alliance
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