Higher apprenticeship targets 'smashed'

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The government has helped more than 20,000 young people to embark on apprenticeships in recent years

The government claims to have "smashed" its target of encouraging more than 20,000 new higher apprenticeship starts across the UK during the last two years.

Figures published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have shown that a total of just over 22,000 new students have taken up placements with businesses across the country since the start of the academic year 2013 to 2014.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne set this ambitious target during the announcement of his December 2013 Autumn Statement - a figure he believed would help in the delivery of a more highly-skilled and productive workforce across the country.

Now this target has been achieved, the government has shifted its attention to supporting a further three million apprenticeship starts by 2020.

Skills minister Nick Boles said: "We listened to what employers told us they needed and have invested in apprenticeships to ensure their workforce have the quality skills needed to grow the business.

"These figures show we are on course to create a modern and competitive workforce that boosts the country's productivity and prosperity.

"The employer-led demand for higher apprenticeships is yet another reminder of the great respect our apprentices command."

Hundreds of companies across the country have given their backing to the push for more apprenticeships that is taking place across the UK at present, including such household names as Rolls-Royce.

Learning and development manager at the automotive and aerospace manufacturer David Campbell echoed Mr Boles' enthusiasm for creating more apprenticeship positions and added that the firm prides itself on providing "world-class training" for all its apprentices, helping to encourage them to fulfil their career goals.

The news follows the recent announcement by the BIS of a change in the legal definition of apprenticeships, to ensure all those who take part in these programmes receive equal legal treatment to individuals that go on to higher education to secure a degree.

In addition, the skills minister announced the public sector will be beholden to deliver a significant increase in apprenticeship positions in the coming years, with the aim of ensuring young people up and down the country are able to pursue varied careers through vocational training schemes.

The overarching aim of these measures is to ensure the UK maintains its position as the fastest-growing G7 economy for the foreseeable future, with an investment in bolstering the skills of the next generation of engineers, teachers, social care professionals, logistics providers and countless other professions central to this goal.