It was recently reported that apprenticeship providers have under-delivered on their allocated number of funded apprenticeships for 16 to 18-year-olds in their August 2012 allocations.

Education Funding Agency figures show that 769 colleges and training providers were going to be funded around £827m for 16 to 18 apprenticeships, but 524 providers had under-delivered by a total of £241m, potentially impacting on the future allocations that these centres will receive.

So what are the reasons behind this?

Some have pointed towards increased competition from 19+ applicants to get onto apprenticeship programmes. Others have speculated that it could be due to the requirement for increased employer contributions, putting employers off taking on young apprentices. It also begs the question — could the situation be indicative of problems with forthcoming apprenticeship reform?

Whatever the reasons, the providers who’ve under delivered will potentially be in line for a reduction in their young people’s apprenticeship funding the following year which may affect their capacity to deliver apprenticeships to younger learners.

At NCFE, we’re keen to increase both the appetite of providers to deliver apprenticeships and the appetite of businesses to take apprentices on.

The quarterly apprenticeship Index produced by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) this month, shows that there has been a phenomenal increase in online applications for apprenticeship vacancies between August and October 2013, leaping by 43 per cent.

Each online position is attracting an average of 12 applications, demonstrating that demand is significantly outstripping supply.

It is clear that we need to capitalise on the evident enthusiasm of these young people and encourage employees to see the long-term benefits of hiring apprentices to help grow their businesses.

Apprenticeships can go a long way to helping education meet the skills needs of the economy, uniting the worlds of learning and work. Forecasts suggest that apprentices could add up to £3.4bn a-year in economic gains, holding the key to a highly skilled workforce that can compete and thrive on a global scale.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he wants apprenticeships to be seen as a ‘first class career move’, while Skills Minister Matthew Hancock recently highlighted research which reveals that one-in-five employers have former apprentices working in senior positions.

Yes, apprenticeships are high on the government agenda, and they’re a top priority for us at NCFE too.

According to the NAS index, the greatest numbers of both applications and vacancies were in the business, administration and law sector and it’s with this high demand in mind that NCFE offers a range of apprenticeships in this area.

Our apprenticeships also span popular sectors including education and training, health, public services and care, leisure, travel and tourism and retail and commercial enterprise. Alongside our qualifications, we offer a range of free apprenticeship resources designed to support both the tutor and the learner with independent learning and cost effective delivery. They offer essential knowledge and activities in a flexible format to help consolidate learning and practice.

We understand the challenges that come with apprenticeship delivery and we’re keen to make providers’ lives easier while also helping learners to achieve their ambitions.

We’re greatly encouraged by the renewed interest of young people in apprenticeships but we all need to work together — awarding organisations, independent training providers, colleges and employers alike — to ensure that their interest does not go unrewarded.

Together, we can help them find their strengths, utilise their skills and contribute in a meaningful way in the labour market.

David Grailey is CEO of NCFE.

National Apprenticeship Week supplement

National Apprenticeship Week supplement