Employers urged to offer more apprenticeships as new figures show demand for places is continuing to rise

Top employers are being urged to take on more apprentices as new figures reveal that the popularity of the schemes is continuing to grow.

Almost 130,000 apprenticeship vacancies have been posted online in England in the last 12 months, according to the latest figures released by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS).

This is an increase of 27% compared with the previous year. The NAS also revealed that the number of online applications has increased by around a third to 1.4 million.

Sectors such as health optical retail, vehicle sales and clinical support have seen the most significant increase in the number of apprenticeship vacancies during the last 12 months, the figures show.

But with an average of 11 people applying for each place, experts say employers should consider offering more places to talented youngsters.

NAS director Jaine Bolton welcomed the latest findings but said more must be done to encourage employers to hire apprentices.

She said: "These figures show that the demand for apprenticeships keeps growing. It is the first choice for many talented young people and more employers wanting young talent need to wake up to this fact."

The Government is also calling on employers to offer more places to young people. Skills minister Matthew Hancock said ministers wanted to see it become the norm for students to choose between either going to university or into an apprenticeship.

Mr Hancock said more firms should consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business.

He added: "Research out last week showed that more than 70% of employers say apprentices boosted their service or product - this is testament to the benefits of apprenticeships for both young people and the wider economy."

Copyright Press Association 2013