Apprentice jobs jump 50 per cent

A major increase in the number of apprenticeships offered in England heralds a "cultural change" in young people's aspirations, ministers said last night.

Official figures show a more than 50 per cent rise in the number of apprenticeships compared to the previous year, from 279, 000 to 442,700.

Initial indications had shown that fewer candidates are applying to universities next year in the wake of fee rises.

Skills minister John Heyes told The Independent: "For a long time we promoted the entirely bogus idea that the only route to success and worth and value was through academic accomplishment. That's important but people who have practical skills deserve their chance of glittering prizes, too."

But Labour warned that the figures were "flatlining" for young people, with the major growth area in apprenticeships being among those aged over 25.

Shadow Skills spokesman Gordon Marsden said: "It is very clear the vast black hole in youth unemployment is not being filled by this."

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