It is the time of year when young people are leaving school and entering the next stage of their life.

Too many, I believe, are being steered in the direction of university. The academic route is not suitable for everyone, but in recent years this has been the over-riding focus for school leavers.

Becoming an apprentice is an option that has been greatly undervalued. More needs to be done to get the message across in schools and to school leavers themselves that Apprenticeships are a worthwhile alternative to college or university.

Apprentices earn while they learn so that those taking this career path are unlikely to end up thousands of pounds in debt like many of those who decide to go to university full-time.

They gain the knowledge and skills to secure industry-recognised qualifications through practical experience as well as being taught the necessary theoretical aspects of their chosen trade.

At the end of the three years, that they would have spent at Uni, they will have made great strides in their chosen career.

Apprenticeships also benefit businesses. They are an ideal way to recruit and retain motivated enthusiastic students, and having an apprentice can boost the morale of the existing workforce as it demonstrates investment and commitment to the company's future.

Apprentices can also be trained to a company's exact requirements and while they are doing their practical training they make an effective contribution to a company's performance.

HomeServe, the home emergency company, is one business which fully appreciates the benefits of taking on trainees. It plans to invest £1 million over the next three years in apprenticeships, which will result in 20 per cent of its national engineer network coming from apprenticeships. I would urge more businesses to follow this lead.



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