Record numbers now taking apprenticeships, UK Government says

The UK now has more apprentices than ever before, according to the Government.

Provisional figures reveal that almost 860,000 people were on an apprenticeship scheme in 2012/13, with more than 1.5 million having started one over the last three years.

The Government says record numbers are also signing up to take higher and advanced level apprenticeships, although the number of people aged under 19 who are taking part has gone down.

Skills minister Matthew Hancock said a record 858,900 people took part in apprenticeships last year, the total being nearly 370,000 more than in 2009/10.

He said the trend would benefit the UK economy and help people get the skills they need to get the jobs they want.

Mr Hancock added that it is becoming the "new norm" for school leavers to either take an apprenticeship or go on to university.

He said: "There are now more options than ever before with a focus on the quality and rigour that people and employers want from apprenticeships.

"This is good news for the economy, and good news for those getting the skills they need to prosper.

"Our insistence that they must have a minimum duration, involve on-the-job training, and respond to the needs of employers means that it is rapidly becoming the new norm to take an apprenticeship or go to university."

The provisional figures show more people than ever are taking higher apprenticeships, with the take-up of advanced level apprenticeships having also increased by 50,000.

The Government said ending shorter, six-month apprenticeships so that they all now routinely last for at least one year was designed to improve their quality. That has resulted in more people being in apprenticeships, although the number of new-starts has not grown.

As well as lasting for at least a year, all apprenticeships now involve some training on the job.

Further reforms to the UK's apprenticeship system are expected to be announced soon, with the Government saying its aim is to offer apprenticeships that are on a par or better than the best in the world.

Copyright Press Association 2013