Eight in every 10 employers believe apprentices help to generate higher productivity, a survey has revealed.
The research conducted by the Learning and Skills Council, published today, found that 81% of 500 employers that use apprenticeships said hiring an apprentice helped increase work output. Two-thirds (66%) believed apprentices helped them to be more competitive.
Skills minister Tony Young said: "Apprenticeships are rightly valued across Britain as a means of providing employers with a well-trained workforce which helps their business to succeed. They're about businesses investing in their future, whatever the economic climate."
Mor than one-fifth (22%) of employers surveyed said they were actively recruiting apprentices to help their business survive the recession and prepare for the upturn in the economy. More than 82% said they relied on their apprenticeship programme to give them the skilled workers needed for the future.
The government aims to increase the number of apprenticeships on offer to an annual target of 130,000, and has set aside just under £1bn to achieve this next year. Official figures show that 109,700 people completed apprenticeship programmes in 2007-8, an all-time high rate of 64%.
From April 2009, the new National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) will oversee the expansion of the apprenticeship programme, and since January this year, prospective apprentices have been able to apply online for job vacancies advertised by employers.
However, a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development published yesterday reported that 93% of employers were unaware of the NAS or other measures to make the system easier.
The CIPD claimed the system was not fully grasped or utilised by employers, despite last year's Draft Apprenticeship Bill pledging to simplify funding arrangements for apprentices.
Employers should visit apprenticeships.org.uk or call the helpline on 08000 150 600 to find out about offering apprenticeships.
Meanwhile, check out our live discussion at 2pm today (Tuesday), where Personnel Today will be joined by minister Young, Simon Waugh of the National Apprenticeship Service and Dave Walsh, BT's head of apprenticeships.