Jobs market frenzy

24,000 chase just 221 apprenticeships

But BT was so swamped by applications that it is considering increasing the number of places

Telecoms group BT today said it is considering increasing its number of apprenticeship places after an unprecedented demand for the scheme.

The company had nearly 24,000 applications for the 221 apprenticeship places available this year - more than 100 applications per place.



More young people applied for the positions on the programme - which offers an annual salary of £11,000 to £14,000 - than the total applications to Oxford University, which attracted 17,000 applications for its 3,000 undergraduate places.



Today, the firm said it is considering taking advantage of this demand for the scheme, especially in light of its plans to introduce faster, fibre broadband across the UK.



Alex Wilson, BT's human resources director, said: "BT has had unprecedented interest in its apprenticeship scheme.



"Given this interest, and BT's plans to spend £2.5 billion on rolling out fibre broadband, the company is now considering whether to expand the scheme.



"We'll need engineers to help us deliver superfast broadband and so we hope to tap into the interest that is being shown by young people across the UK."



Successful applicants go on to specialise in information technology, telecoms or customer service, and will gain qualifications including BTEC or foundation degrees.



The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) has recorded a steady increase in the number of applications being made through its online facility, nearly doubling from 22,550 in April to 41,940 in July.



David Way, chief operating officer of the National Apprenticeship Service, said: "As the high number of applications to BT shows, an apprenticeship is a great way for young people to start their career and many are keen to take this route.



"Taking this earn while you learn route will not only give people great skills, but they also get paid while learning."



The high demand for apprenticeship places reflects the growing rate of unemployment in the country's six million 18 to 24-year-olds, which is currently 17.5%, and a spike in the birth rate in the early nineties.



As a result, more young people are also applying for education places - with university admissions service Ucas reporting in June an 11.7% rise on the previous year in applications received.



Last week, it emerged growing numbers of school leavers were applying directly to companies once thought of as graduate employers rather than going to university.



PricewaterhouseCoopers said applications for its school-leavers' entry scheme doubled to 800 in the past two years, while Network Rail said it had 4,000 entries for more than 200 apprenticeship places this year.



City & Guilds, which runs vocational qualifications, said interest this summer is up 20% on last year.



Meanwhile, the Push Student Debt Survey revealed students starting university this autumn will graduate with almost £25,000 of debt.



The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - led by Lib Dem MP Vince Cable - announced plans to fund 8,000 places for full-time UK and EU students, but also to create 50,000 extra apprenticeship places.



The scramble to find gainful employment or a place in higher education will come to a head this Thursday when A-level results are released.

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