We recently saw the return of National Apprenticeship Week, an annual event run by the National Apprenticeship Service to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.
In East Hampshire, the number of people starting apprenticeships has seen a rapid increase in recent years. A total of 520 people commenced an internship in 2012/13, an increase of 86 per cent on the number seen in 2009/10.
Apprenticeships are mutually beneficial for employer and apprentice. Taking on apprentices can be a very effective way of addressing skills shortages in a business, enabling a workforce to be tailored so it has the specific skills and qualities an organisation needs.
The feedback from businesses who have taken on apprentices speaks volumes. Seventy-seven per cent say that they believe it has made their business more competitive and 88 per cent think it has led to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
In addition, financial support is available from the government: employers with 1,000 employees or fewer can receive a grant of up to £1,500 for taking on an apprentice aged between 16 and 24.
For some people, an apprenticeship is the ideal way to segue from full-time education into the working world. They can develop skills for specific careers that cannot be taught in the classroom and gain real-life experience while being paid.
It is good that alternative options such as these are open to young people in East Hampshire after the age of 16, rather than the usual two paths of remaining in full-time education or going straight into a job.
There are also wider economic benefits. Every £1 of public investment in apprenticeships in the UK returns an estimated £18 to the wider economy.
In addition, at the same time as the number of apprenticeships in East Hampshire has increased, the level of youth unemployment has decreased.