With the introduction of often-prohibitive university tuition fees, and a wider than ever range of options for young people entering the world of employment, the route is fast-becoming the first choice for many setting out on their career paths.
Indeed, more than 27,000 apprenticeship applications were submitted online in the North East alone between February and April, a growth of over 36% compared to 2012.
Chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, James Ramsbotham, said: “For many companies, apprenticeships are a critical way of training people to fill specific roles within their organisations, helping both the individual and business develop.
“They provide a unique way to shape a workforce, to equip individuals with the precise skills required to fulfil a role within a business and, most importantly, provide people with a fantastic opportunity to learn essential on-the-job skills while earning a wage.
“The wide variety of apprenticeships available and the advent of university fees have both contributed to a significant rise in apprentices in recent years.
“This is no bad thing and has helped enormously the effort to bring together the worlds of academia and business.”
For apprentices aged between 16 and 18, the Government – which set aside ï¿½1.5bn for the purpose in the last financial year -– will pay 100% of the funds required, using agencies such as the NECC and the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), while for apprentices aged between 19 and 24, it will contribute up to 50%.
Smaller businesses may also be eligible for a grant of ï¿½1,500 per apprentice – and indeed 18,900 young people have been able to take the route because of this incentive for employers.
Taking on an apprentice also means the employer receives extensive support, from recruiting and training the candidate to advice on the available apprenticeship frameworks.
Over the last year, half and million people started in an apprenticeship, with more than 100,000 employers in England taking advantage of the scheme, covering 170 industries and 1,500 different job roles.
Indeed, apprenticeships are available in 250 different fields, including everything from business administration to hospitality.
According to recent research, 96% of apprentice employers feel they gain significant benefits to their businesses, ranging from increased competitiveness to better staff retention and recruitment costs savings.
Around 72% felt apprentices also improved productivity, bringing higher profits, lower prices and better products.
In the North East, the percentage of apprenticeship that are successfully completed each year has risen steadily from 38.9% to 75.9% .
Executive director of the NAS, David Way said: “Apprenticeships are a great way for people to earn while they learn in a real job, gaining a real qualification, and setting them on the road to success.
“For employers, hiring apprentices is a way of attracting new talent and developing a motivated, skilled and diverse workforce.”
Both the NAS and the Chamber of Commerce, however, believe that more can always be done to highlight the numerous benefits apprenticeships can bring.
Hence, they have worked together on initiatives such as the 100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge, which has seen more than 1,000 new apprenticeships and training opportunities created in the North East in a little over 10 weeks.
“This fantastic campaign achieves excellent results year after year,” said Mr Ramsbotham.
“NECC and our partners encourage all businesses to consider investing in apprenticeship programmes.
“Our hope is that the 100 day Challenge will further raise interest in apprenticeships.
“It’s fair to say that each year we wonder if our businesses and organisations will have the same appetite for apprenticeships as the one before and each year that appetite grows stronger.”
For more information on apprenticeships, see www.apprenticeships.org.uk