2012 – what a year it’s been for Britain, with the magnificent Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee festivities making us all so proud of our country.

In the midst of last summer’s celebrations, one thing stuck in my mind - the sheer brilliance that makes up Great Britain. For centuries, we have been at the forefront of driving forward the global agenda. We led the industrial revolution, and we have played a pivotal role in pioneering the digital age.

Generations of change makers have been born on our shores; Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Vivienne Westwood and Sir Richard Branson to name a few.

But in today’s turbulent economic times, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to find their path to success. Since the financial crisis took hold in 2008, jobs have been scarce and perhaps more alarming is the fact that for those organisations that are recruiting, finding the staff with relevant skills is a huge challenge.

One thing’s for certain - if Britain is to maintain its position on the global stage, we need to inspire the next generation of young people. We need to instill in them a can-do attitude and we need to provide them with the necessary skills for the 21st Century workplace. It’s about providing young people with real, hands-on business experience and on-the-job training, so that they can realise their potential and can become an asset to a potential employer.

We’ve read a lot recently about apprenticeships, particularly in light of last month’s Richard Review, which made some excellent recommendations for the future of apprenticeships in England.

And there’s no doubt that these work-based training schemes are a fantastic way to up-skill the nation. At the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy we are launching a brand new Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship in Innovation and Growth, designed specifically to develop a business-savvy workforce.

Apprenticeships by nature benefit both the apprentice and the employer, but what’s significant about this new qualification, which we will be piloting next year, is the added emphasis placed on innovation.

For thousands of businesses across the UK, innovation has become a high priority as they constantly look to carve out their niche. And in an increasingly saturated market, this has never been more important.

If you run your own marketing agency, for example, what is it that will make you stand out from the crowd? How can you ensure potential customers choose your service over and above your competitors? And how can you always stay one step ahead of the curve? It’s simple. It’s all down to innovation.

Through this new Level 5 Apprenticeship, entitled ‘Ignite’, we can equip our students with valuable skills including creative problem solving, critical thinking, team building and negotiating, which are vital for any organisation looking to develop an innovative workforce.

For any business owner building a brilliant team is fundamental to the success of their venture. Without a solid employee-base upon which you can rely to get the best results for your company, you simply won’t succeed.

Consequently, employers are searching for something special in their new recruits. They need visionaries to shape and drive the company forward. They want to hire future leaders and managers with skills to foster and support innovation and growth in their organisation.

And it is these companies that build a pioneering workforce and that employ “intrapreneurs” that will ultimately drive forward Britain’s economic growth.

So let’s make 2013 a year to remember, let’s ignite innovation.

Alice Barnard is chief executive of the Peter Jones Foundation and the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy

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