New statistics show that there has been a continued increase in the amount of UK individuals taking up apprenticeships.
For the full 2011/12 academic year, 502,500 started an apprenticeship, up from 457,200 the year previously.
The Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) says that the figures also reveal ‘particularly strong growth at advanced and higher levels’.
Skills minister Matthew Hancock comments, ‘Hitting the half-million mark is a momentous achievement for this government’s apprenticeships programme.
‘It shows our passion for skills, and is a ringing endorsement from employers and apprentices alike, who are reaping the benefits of a more highly-skilled workforce.’
The findings come six months after the coalition government and David Cameron unveiled a new £6 million round of funding aimed at supporting ‘thousands’ of degree-level higher apprenticeships.
The extra cash came on top of a £25 million boost for the Higher Apprenticeship Fund launched in July 2011.
The £6 million scheme provides businesses with an opportunity to bid for a share of the capital as well as being offered an incentive of £1,500 to hire a first young apprentice.
Hancock adds, ‘I am particularly pleased to see such a big increase in the number of people signing up for advanced level and higher level apprenticeships, which open the road for people wanting to become engineers, lawyers and accountants.
‘More must be done to ensure apprenticeships are more rigorous, higher quality, and more employer focused. We are introducing tougher standards, including a stipulation that all apprenticeships must last a minimum of 12 months.’