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Are apprenticeships a way to help young people get in and get on in work?

Did you know there are enough unemployed young people in the UK to fill Wembley Stadium several times over? Despite a solid economy and unemployment at the lowest it’s been for 6 years, youth unemployment isn’t falling fast enough.

We’re all agreed this isn’t good enough. Tackling such a big and stubborn problem needs action from schools, government and business, but the business community has faced its fair share of scrutiny. It’s been asked whether businesses are playing their part and giving young people the chance they deserve.

For many, an apprenticeship is a first step into the world of work: last year 273,000 people under the age of 25 started an apprenticeship. It’s not much like the hit BBC show The Apprentice, but apprenticeships do offer many young people the chance to get in and get on in work.

What is an apprenticeship? An apprenticeship is a job accompanied by extensive and continued training. An apprenticeship leads to the achievement of an Apprenticeship standard at the end and the development of transferable skills. From manufacturing to service sectors, apprenticeships can make a great route into a wide range of careers. Find out more from the Government’s National Apprenticeship Service.

Apprenticeships combine a real job, salary and training on and off the job. This combination of practical learning in a workplace context, underpinned by study mean that apprenticeships can be a great route to a good career. The vast majority (85%) of apprentices stay in employment and a third (32%) of apprentices were promoted within 12 months of completing their apprenticeship. Studies also suggest that apprentices can earn 10% more than those with equivalent qualifications, but who have not completed an apprenticeship.

Businesses are behind top quality apprenticeships, recognising the benefits of the skills and knowledge that apprentices can bring to their business. Joint research by the CBI and Pearson found that 69% of those currently offering apprenticeships are planning to expand their programme in the near future.

Apprenticeships alone can’t be the solution to youth unemployment, but we do need more firms to invest in delivering high quality apprentices apprenticeships. Reforms underway in the apprenticeship system should make it easier for employers to use apprenticeships and to shape them around their business. Clearer routes into apprenticeships for school and college leavers would encourage more young people to follow this path.

Industry-led initiatives like the 5% Club are also a great way for business to commit to taking on more young people through these routes and seek support from other firms who are able to share their experiences and advice.

So what do you think? Share you apprenticeship stories with us @bizdebate

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