This week is National Apprenticeship Week, an important date in the diary for employers, colleges, training providers and – of course - young people. During National Apprenticeship Week we all pull together to get more employers and young people on board with apprenticeships and traineeships. This year's theme of 'an apprenticeship can take you anywhere' reflects the ambition that we see every day in apprentices.
Apprentices have the opportunity and the skills to champion apprenticeships to others in their personal and professional circles. We know that unfortunately sometimes schools, careers advisers, parents and others rate apprenticeships as second place to university. Apprentices know that's not the case.
So when it comes to promoting apprenticeships as a good choice, we know that apprentices that can say, from experience, that the level of opportunity apprenticeships now afford is huge – with many gaining Degree and Masters qualifications.
Over time, apprenticeships and vocational training is taking its place in prestige alongside university, and this is incredibly important. As apprenticeship quality and standards have been reformed, potential apprentices are being inspired by how they too could start a career in almost any industry from aerospace, fashion, broadcast media or finance.
Apprenticeships are not only beneficial to young people, enabling them to earn and learn but they are hugely beneficial to our economy – giving employers the skills they need in their workforce to succeed.
The government's commitment is for 3 million more apprenticeship starts by 2020, so there is no better time than now for more young people to consider apprenticeships as a route into a successful and rewarding career. While many young people are already reaping the benefits of apprenticeships – more need to get involved.
That's where National Apprenticeship Week comes in. Over the course of the week, hundreds of employers will be pledging to take on apprentices and trainees, making it the ideal time for young people to consider an apprenticeship. Last year a record breaking 23,000 apprenticeship vacancies were pledged and this year, we hope to exceed this number of pledges made and see even more employers take on an apprentice or trainee. Hundreds of events will be taking place across the country during National Apprenticeship Week, to spread the word and get more young people to get on-board to see for themselves what an apprenticeship can do for them.
Apprenticeship participation now stands at a record level. 871,800 apprentices participated in an apprenticeship during the 2014/15 academic year. Apprenticeships are available in more than 1,500 job roles from nuclear to fashion, law, banking and defence. There are different levels of apprenticeship depending on skills and qualifications: intermediate, advanced, higher and degree apprenticeships. No matter who you are, or where you are from, or what profession you want to choose, an apprenticeship can take you anywhere.
This year promises to be a big year for apprenticeships. In January we celebrated some of our country's most outstanding employers and apprentices at the National Apprenticeship Awards. They are all a true inspiration in showing what apprenticeships can achieve.
We also announced the creation of an Apprenticeship Delivery Board, which was launched by the Prime Minister at a Number 10 reception. The Board is co-chaired by David Cameron's official apprenticeships advisor Nadhim Zahawi MP and businessman and Chair of the Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network, David Meller.
This Board will encourage more businesses to develop quality apprenticeships and its members will champion apprenticeships in their sector whilst identifying any potential challenges and barriers.
In the North West, a Young Apprentice Ambassador Network was launched in February with almost 100 apprentices signed up to join the network from employers across the North West. The network is driven by a Board of 12 apprentices, who spoke confidently and passionately to their audience of apprentices, explaining the role of an Ambassador, and sharing ideas to support National Apprenticeship Week.
We have had great support from the apprentices' employers who have agreed and given them the time to be involved in the network, creating a fantastic channel to talk about apprenticeships to an ever growing number of young people. Importantly, the Young Ambassador Network provides us with a voice for young people.
For those feeling encouraged to start an apprenticeship, search 'Find an apprenticeship' online and choose from the thousands of opportunities that well respected employers are offering. Earning money in a paid job, acquiring qualifications, gaining relevant industry experience and quite possibly being promoted with the company at the end of the apprenticeship, all make apprenticeships the right vehicle for eager individuals to show their worth and for businesses to find success and growth with talented people. Employers looking to take on an apprentice can find out more about apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities on GOV.UK.
Sue Husband is director of Apprenticeships and Delivery Service at the Skills Funding Agency