Record 370,000 want to join apprenticeships

With almost 1 million youngsters looking for work, every vacancy attracts 11 applications

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The Independent Online

Competition for apprenticeships is now so intense that 41 young people are applying for every plumbing position, figures show.

Almost 370,000 people submitted online applications to the National Apprenticeship Service between February and April, an increase of 32 per cent on the same period in 2012. Vacancies also increased by 15 per cent, to almost 33,000, but demand far outstripped supply.

Pressure on apprentice positions has grown as the number of 16-24 year-olds out of work approaches one million. The ratio of applicants to vacancies was 9.8 during the same period last year - now it has reached a record high of 11.31.

Business and administration apprenticeships were the most popular, with more than 100,000 applications for around 7,000 vacancies.  Plumbing and heating was the most competitive field, with an average of 41 applicants for every vacancy. Animal care was also tough to break into, with more than 26 applicants for every apprenticeship.

The Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock, said: “With more vacancies than ever before, apprenticeships are fast becoming the norm for young people who want to achieve their career goals through an alternative route to University. We want more employers to take advantage of the advice and support available from the National Apprenticeship Service and consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business.”

However, Labour said the widening gap between the number of applicants and positions available was worrying. Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Minister for further education, skills and regional growth, said: “At a time when there are almost one million young people out of work, creating new quality apprenticeships was a key test for David Cameron. But today’s figures show that as demand massively outstrips supply, this Tory-led Government has failed to deliver the apprenticeships this country needs.”

London recorded the biggest growth in the number of online apprenticeships advertised, with 4,210 vacancies posted by employers, a year on year increase of more than 29 per cent. The South Central and Central Eastern regions posted around 25 per cent more vacancies in 2013 than at the same time last year.

The capital also had the most competition for each online vacancy, with potential apprentices submitting almost 74,000 applications – an average of 17 applications for every job.

David Way, Executive Director of the National Apprenticeship Service, said: “These figures show that the popularity of apprenticeships continues to rise and in a greater range of occupations than before. The increase in vacancies shows that more and more individuals are seeing apprenticeships as a great way to start out in their chosen career. Employers increasingly recognise that hiring apprentices is a great way of attracting new talent and developing a motivated, skilled and diverse workforce.”

Among the fastest growing apprenticeships, in terms of the percentage increase in vacancies advertised online, are vehicle sales, which had a 916 per cent increase year on year, and the power industry, where vacancies are up 840 per cent.

Case study: There’s so much competition you must stand out 

Sana Khan, 18, East London

“I’ve been applying for apprentice places in media and film for three months. I quit studying psychology at Roehampton University in February because university just seemed too casual. I’m still waiting to find out if I’ve been successful. I hadn’t realised there would be so many other people applying. Not a lot of media companies do apprenticeships. It’s becoming more and more competitive so you have to stand out.”