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With the government committed to support 3m apprenticeships over the next five years, the fact that more school leavers are opting to start one serves as good news.

The UK’s apprenticeship programme has expanded since 2010/11 as a result of increased government investment. More recently apprenticeship policy has focused on raising standards, improving the quality and the introduction of minimum durations of apprenticeships.

This, according to figures released by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) in its “Statistical First Release”, has meant some learners find it difficult or take longer to complete their apprenticeship. Despite this fact, however, it found that the number of Brits aged under 19 taking on apprenticeships has increased.

The government suggested that in order hit the 3m target in the next five years there needed to be an average of 600,000 apprenticeship starts per year, or 150,000 per quarter. The figures provided by the SFA showed 153,100 new starts for the first quarter of 2015/16, from August to October.

This is a four per cent increase on last year’s provisional figures, with 5,600 more starts. And, as was suggested, the greatest increase was in intermediate level apprenticeships among the under 19s, with 3,000 more starts recorded.

Read more about apprenticeships in the UK:

In response to the findings, skills minister Nick Boles said: “Young people today have more doors open to them than ever before. The figures show that savvy young people see apprenticeships as a fast-track to a successful career. Apprenticeships are real jobs that combine studying with hands on experience in the workplace."

In contrast, however, the greatest decrease in apprenticeships could be found in the intermediate level, for those aged 19-24, with the number of starts decreasing by five per cent.

Nonetheless, Boles claimed apprenticeships and traineeships would create a skilled and productive workforce that would support the UK’s economic growth. 

"We are on the right track to delivering 3m apprenticeships by 2020,” he added.

The positive figures follow prime minister David Cameron’s announcement of a new Apprenticeship Delivery Board, which will bring together some of the country’s leading businesses.

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