Booming application numbers plus an increasing list of vacancies show apprenticeships are growing as a career alternative to university, according to Skills Minister Matthew Hancock.
The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) has revealed there were 90,420 more online applications between February and April this year than the same period last year, when 278,410 were submitted.
The 32 per cent rise sits alongside a 15 per cent increase over the same period in the number of apprenticeship vacancies advertised online — up to 32,600.
It means that an average of 11 applicants were fighting it out for each apprenticeship.
“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,” said Mr Hancock.
“We want more employers to take advantage of the advice and support available from NAS and consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business.”
The most popular day for submitting was Monday, March 18 — just after National Apprenticeship Week — when 6,730 applications were made in 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Friday, April 26, saw the highest number of live vacancies ever recorded with 17,700 available online.
The five most popular apprenticeship were in business and administration, with 101,510 applications; childcare, with 29,020; customer services, with 26,200; IT, software web and telecoms, with 20,550; and vehicle maintenance and repair, with 19,710.
The five most common vacancies were in business and administration at 7,702; customer services at 2,700; childcare at 1,991; manufacture craft and technician at 1,771; and hospitality and catering at 1,720.
And the toughest competition for an apprenticeship was in arts, media and publishing and information communication technology where there was an average of 17 applicants for each vacancy.
The figures were released as two new guides to hiring an apprentice for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and large firms were developed — and are available here and here, respectively — in response to Jason Holt’s Review of Apprenticeships.
“It is vital that we do more to demonstrate how all employers can grow their own workforce through apprenticeships,” said Mr Holt.
“For smaller businesses, this is even more crucial as apprentices help improve productivity while reducing costs.”
David Way, NAS executive director, said: “We aim to make it really easy for employers to hire an apprentice.
“The launch of these new online employer tools will further enhance the service we already offer employers — whatever their size and whatever their needs.
“For SMEs there is also the added incentive of £1500 to assist them in the recruitment of apprentices.”