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Apprenticeships have long been the Coalition’s answer to the UK’s skills shortage, and in some ways, their efforts are paying off.

Many of our experts in this National Apprenticeship Week supplement will give you the facts and figures, which generally point to success for programme. More people are on apprenticeships, and that is a very good thing.

As someone who left school at 18 for a job in my first newsroom in Gloucester, I know the value of learning and earning. But, to be fair, I’m hardly the government’s target market anymore as a six-year happily-employed, and fully qualified, journalist.

The question is — do young people in England know the value? Are schools presenting apprenticeships as a viable option? Are children hearing about them in the same way as they hear about university? Are children hearing about them at all?

We have a long way to go before all these can be answered with a resounding yes.

Schools continue to push university as a preferred route for bright kids, as they did with last year’s apprentice champion of the year Chloe Gailes, on pages 10 and 11.
Young people are still put off by low wages, and few would say the apprentice minimum wage of £2.68 an hour (just over £100 a-week, or £5,226 a-year) does much to alleviate that. This is an issue discussed by National Union of Students vice president for FE Joe Vinson on page 12.

Yet there are still 10 applications for every post advertised on the National Apprenticeship Service website — indicating the problem might also be a shortage of employers.

This supplement aims to inform, empower and start a debate, with expert views and opinion from politicians to principals, from chief executives to commissioners, and from Britain to Brussels, starting with Skills Minister Matthew Hancock, before his Shadow, Liam Byrne, and then Liberal Democrat apprentice champion Gordon Birtwistle have their say.

However, the first aim of this supplement is to celebrate the programme, so here’s
raising a toast to all apprentices, their employers and