Business mogul Lord Sugar is back on our screens seeking his next ‘apprentice’ – but perhaps he should be looking in Northumberland.
The area can boast of 2,020 people starting on genuine apprenticeship schemes in the nine months to April this year, according to the Department for Education.
And forget the brash, sometimes larger-than-life claims of Lord Sugar’s confident candidates – 1,330 people in Northumberland actually achieved an apprenticeship qualification over the same period.
Just like Lord Sugar’s hopefuls, it seems the apprentices of Northumberland also harbour ambitions to conquer the business world.
The most popular subject area chosen by the apprentices was business, administration and law.
The next most in demand subjects were health, public services and care, and engineering and manufacturing technologies.
Apprenticeship and Skills Minister Anne Milton said apprenticeships could be a “passport into a range of exciting industries”, such as nuclear, food science, law, engineering, digital technology, nursing and planning.
The Government says it will be focusing on improving apprenticeships in the 65 most deprived local authorities over the next two years.
Far from being a quick route to the top, as Lord Sugar’s candidates are hoping for, apprenticeships in reality can take anywhere between one and five years to complete.
An apprentice will typically spend one day a week studying at a college or training organisation, while spending the rest training on the job under the guidance of experienced employees.
While popular wisdom might have you believe that apprenticeships are a route mainly for school leavers, this is isn’t always the case in Northumberland.
Those aged 25 and over were the second biggest group making up 35 per cent of all apprenticeships taken up in the nine months to April, while 36% were aged 16-18 and 29 per cent were 19-24.
The DfE publishes figures on three kinds of apprenticeships – intermediate, advanced, and higher.
In Northumberland, 920 people began intermediate apprenticeships – the equivalent to GCSEs – last year, while 870 started advanced ones, the equivalent of A levels.
The remaining 230 embarked on competitive higher apprenticeships, which are on a par with foundation degrees or above.
There is no data available on the gender of the apprentices in the last nine months but in the 2016-17 academic year – August to July – 49 per cent of people taking up an apprenticeship were women.
Across England, around 290,500 workers began new apprenticeships over the nine months to April, and more than 181,600 successfully finished one during the same period.
However, this was 156,400 fewer than during the same nine month period in the 2016-17 academic year.
The plunging numbers have been blamed on the introduction of the new Apprenticeship Levy – a tax that some larger employers pay towards a national fund for the training of apprentices – in April 2017.
Critics say the change has caused confusion for employers, and put them off taking on apprentices.
Anne Milton MP continued: “New, high-quality apprenticeships are being developed at all levels, all the time.
“We have a range of measures in place to help people from all backgrounds to take up an apprenticeship, and we give extra funding to providers training apprentices in the most disadvantaged areas.
“You can find out all about the apprenticeships available near you by visiting the government’s Find an Apprenticeship website – so take a look and consider doing an apprenticeship today.”