Apprenticeships up 18 per cent in bid to tackle skills shortage
The number of new apprenticeships in Devon and Cornwall in the past year increased by nearly one-fifth, Government figures showed.
Some 19,680 people started an apprenticeship in the two counties in 2011/12 – 18% more than the 16,640 in the year before. Devon and Cornwall apprenticeship "starts" stood at 12,150 in 2009/10.
Nationally, more than half a million people started apprenticeships last year, meaning that as many people began subsidised training in the workplace as undergraduate degrees for the first time ever.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said the increase showed that the "tide was turning" in the drive to improve training.
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In the 2011/12 academic year, 520,600 people started an apprenticeship in England, up by 14% on the previous year.
In 2009-10, the equivalent figure was 280,000. The rise has been driven in large part by the closure of other state-backed workplace training schemes.
Apprentices receive subsidised training, but employers pay the full cost of their wages. The government seeks to improve the status of apprenticeships by pressing for higher-level training through the system – with qualifications equivalent to graduate-level study.
Mr Cable said: "Whenever I speak to businesses, a lack of trained workers is a frequent concern. The figures mean we are starting to turn the tide. Over half a million people took up an apprenticeship last year, showing that our investment in vocational skills is paying off.
"I am particularly pleased to see the high number of people studying engineering. We have a massive shortage of engineering skills in this country, and we need even more to support manufacturing, exports and infrastructure."
Apprenticeship starts within this sector reached 59,000, an increase of one-fifth compared to 2010-11.
But the figures also highlight the relative difficulty of securing places for younger apprentices: only 130,000 under-19s started apprenticeships – a drop on 2010-11. In the first quarter of 2012-13, the number fell by seven per cent.
Matthew Hancock, Skills Minister, said that the decline was related to the decision to withdraw backing for "programme-led" apprentices: these are courses without employer involvement that had been filled mainly by younger workers.
Labour said the figures were "disappointing", showing a 15% fall in apprenticeships for young people.
The number of 16-18 year olds starting an apprenticeship in the first quarter of this academic year dropped by 9,200 in comparison to the same period last year, Labour said.
Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden said: "The disappointing figures lay bare the continuing decline in numbers of apprenticeships for young people under David Cameron with a 15% drop in comparison to the same period last year, while the overall number of apprenticeship starts have also dropped by over six per cent.
"With youth unemployment at almost one million as a result of the Tories' economic failure, ministers need to get a grip and boost apprenticeship opportunities for young people."