New statistics suggest a major growth in the number of apprenticeships being offered in the North East.
Data released by the National Apprenticeship Service shows the number of vacancies posted on its Apprenticeship Vacancies website by employers across the region rose by around 45% in August to October compared to the same period the previous year, going from 1,760 to 2,550.
This is in addition to opportunities offered to young people directly.
The biggest rises took place in Darlington and Redcar & Cleveland, with both areas seeing vacancies grow by 100%, from 70 to 140. Sunderland, meanwhile, saw a 70% growth, from 230 to 390, while, in Newcastle, vacancies were up 28%, going from 250 to 320.
Other areas featured in the analysis included Durham, which experienced a 59% rise from 290 to 460, Gateshead (15%), Hartlepool (50%), North Tyneside (33%), South Tyneside (29%) and Stockton-on-Tees (33%). No figures were available for Middlesbrough.
Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Apprenticeships are at the heart of the Government’s drive to equip people with the skills employers want and need.
“We want it to become the new norm for people to choose between an apprenticeship or university as equally prestigious routes to a great career.
“That is why it’s so encouraging to see even more excellent apprenticeship opportunities available across the country.”
Nationally, the greatest number of online vacancies overall were for business, administration and law apprenticeships (18,940), while those in health, public services and care saw the largest rise in vacancies year-on-year, with an increase of 50%. There were also noticeable rises in the number of vacancies in the STEM fields and in higher apprenticeships.
The news comes shortly after the release of Government figures showing the number of apprenticeship starts during the 2013/14 academic year amounted to 440,000 - 70,000 fewer than the year before.
Ian Malcolm, managing director of Redcar-based automotive parts manufacturer ElringKlinger GB, described the statistics as “worrying” within his sector, which was experiencing a “ticking time bomb” on skills.
He called for “joined up thinking” between BIS and the Department for Education, suggesting measuring schools on the number of students going on to university was alientating to those who were more vocationally inclined, and said the bulk of a new £30m Government funding pot supporting the next generation of vehicle makers should go on producing more apprenticeships.
In what he called a “manifesto for those holding the purse strings”, he said: “At ElringKlinger we have previously had plans in place to introduce an in-house apprenticeship scheme but the funding process stilted our attempts to the point it was no longer a feasible route for us to take.
“We have since introduced our own programme. However, I know I’m not alone in saying that the associated processes in place to access funding make life unnecessarily difficult.”
Mr Malcolm also called for investment in the existing workforce “before it’s too late”.
“We have a highly skilled, ageing employee base across the North East, which possesses invaluable expertise,” he said.
“Investing in them before they reach retirement and finding innovative ways for their skills and knowledge to be shared with the next wave of recruits will pay off dividends in the future.”