Potential apprentices will soon be able to find their route into a vocation more easily with a new online search tool currently under development, according to the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS).

Vic Grimes, divisional apprenticeship director for NAS in London and the South East, told providers about the service at an event in North West London on Tuesday.

He said it was “not far off” and would list apprenticeship availabilities.

It comes in response to a recommendation from businessman Jason Holt in his independent review into apprenticeships last year.

The online facility was revealed by Mr Grimes at training provider JGA Group’s Spring Team Forum in response to local teacher Peter Smith during a question and answer session.

“I have great difficulties finding a link to all providers borough-by-borough that I could direct my youngsters to finding an apprenticeship,” said Mr Smith.

“Youngsters do not have that information readily at hand and really need it.”

Mr Grimes said: “I totally agree with you.

“The Holt Review aimed to make apprenticeships more accessible to small businesses and one of its recommendations was to develop exactly the tool you’re talking about so employers can go online and search for a high-quality provider that meets the needs of their business.

“We’re not far off launching that product now.”

The gathering at JGA’s Eastcote base included words from Nick Hurd MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Charities, Social Enterprise and Volunteering at the Cabinet Office, as well as workshops offering guests the chance to discuss issues from Ofsted inspections to information, advice and guidance.

Mr Hurd, Conservative, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, said: “As a country we haven’t taken apprenticeships seriously enough, but I think that is changing. The essential thing to get right is that they work for the employer.”

And Mr Grimes told an audience of around 100 that the Coalition had “huge ambitions” for apprenticeships.

“In 2013/14 we’re aiming to go beyond the 500,000 all-age apprenticeship starts we delivered last year, to 520,000,” he said.

“It’s very true to say apprenticeships are at the centre of the Coalition’s economic growth strategy.

“Over the next 10 years we want to support 3.8m apprenticeships through their programme and that will bring a return to the British economy of £3.4bn. Just how powerful is that?”

Last year 500,000 starts were delivered with 138,000 employers — across more than 280 sectors — recruiting apprentices and many for the first time, he said.

But there had been a downturn of 1,000 apprenticeship places this year because NAS had stripped out 1,000 “poor quality” placements. He urged delegates to report any concerns they had over this issue.

“We will not tolerate it,” he said.

“Young people deserve better than that — we want to hear from you because we will investigate every single case we hear of where poor quality might be happening.”

He also warned that the raising of the participation age to 17 in schools would make it harder for employers to recruit 16 to 18-year-olds.

“It’s incredibly important that we get through to parents, young people and teachers that apprenticeships is part of the requirement of raising the participation age. It’s not about retaining people in school,” he said.

“If an apprenticeship is good for a young person, they should be given the information and be able to access that pathway, regardless of being 16 to 18.”

JGA marketing apprentice Laurence George, 19, also spoke at the event, telling the forum about his route into a career.

“My story starts almost a year-and-a-half ago. I was half-way through sixth-form and realised I didn’t want to carry on in the classroom,” he said.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do and I realised university was not going to be an option for me.”

He said Job Centre Plus put him in touch with JGA who “sat him down” and found out his interests. They offered him a marketing apprenticeship which he said developed into an advanced apprenticeship that’s seen him organise events and manage projects.

“I feel really valued here and I definitely believe I made the right decision leaving the classroom and becoming an apprentice,” said Mr George.

“This view is shared by my family and friends who have really seen me grow as a person and become confident as a young man.”

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