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5/31/2013
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Demand For IT Apprenticeships Outpaces Opportunities In U.K.

With 17 applicants for every available IT apprenticeship position in the U.K., government leaders encourage employers to add more opportunities.

Britain needs to figure out a way to get more young people into the workforce. Government stats show almost a million -- 893,000 -- of the Queen's subjects aged 16 to 24 were neither employed nor in school during the last three months of 2012.

An idea that's been getting a lot of attention lately is apprenticeships, which would enable young people (ideally even NEETs, or those who are Not In Education, Employment or Training) to get practical help and a salary while learning a skill or trade that could help them transition smoothly into a real job. Another benefit: the program could address what is seen as an endemic skills crisis by creating apprenticeships in IT.

Problem is, there are not enough such opportunities. According to the latest figures from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), while advertised ICT (Information and Communication Technology) apprenticeship vacancies jumped by 15% to 1,494 between February and April 2013, the number of applicants increased by 27.6%, to 25,750. (Overall, almost 370,000 apprenticeship applications were submitted online between February and April 2013, a 32% hike over the same period in 2012.)

[ Nesta-sponsored website offers digital creation tools for teens. Read Website Aims To Inspire Digital Makers. ]

The NAS reports that ICT, along with Arts and Media, was one of the most sought-after sectors by apprenticeship seekers, with more than 17 applications for every posted vacancy. That said, ICT was fourth in the top five of apprenticeship applications, trailing Business and Administration, Children & Young People's Workforce (Child care) and Customer Services and ahead of Vehicle Maintenance & Repair.

The government would like to see more activity developing apprenticeships. "Apprenticeships are fast becoming the norm for young people who want to achieve their career goals through an alternative route to university," said skills minister Matthew Hancock. "We want more employers to take advantage of the advice and support available from [NAS] and consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business."

Hancock's team has produced new online guides designed to encourage employers, especially SBMs, take on more apprentices. "For smaller businesses, apprentices help improve productivity while reducing costs," said U.K. business leader Jason Holt, who wrote a study to help bolster apprenticeship programs.

British company owners, including tech firms, are also being offered a state subsidy of £1,500 ($2,300) to help recruitment efforts.

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