Traditionally, apprenticeships were the main route into business. Some of the country's best-known entrepreneurs mastered their skills this way: Michel Roux, restaurateur and Masterchef judge, British fashion designer Karen Millen, and hair-product entrepreneur John Frieda all learned their crafts via apprenticeship schemes.
Apprenticeships are just as relevant and valuable for the next generation. Here's why:
First, we have more than a million 16- to 24-year-olds out of work in this country - more than at any time since records began in 1992. Creating vital employment opportunities for the 'missing million' needs to be a national priority.
Second, the UK lags way behind its competitor economies when it comes to the number of highly-skilled employees and innovation activity. We desperately need to build an economy that equips young people with cutting-edge, industry-relevant business skills.
High-quality, knowledge-based apprenticeships can kick-start careers. They can also generate sustainable economic growth: the National Audit Office found that every £1 spent on Apprenticeships generates £18 for the economy. A motivated and skilled workforce is essential for the health of the nation.
To this end, we are proud to be developing a Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship in Innovation and Growth. At the end of last year, the Peter Jones Foundation was awarded a round-one grant from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to research, develop and implement an Apprenticeship that offers young people a new, quality-assured route into a business career. This is about giving students real, on-the-job training in areas such as business development and project management, and fast-tracking them into decent jobs with promising progression prospects.
We have also developed and piloted a unique Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Enterprise at the Churchgate Academy's new training facility in the centre of Manchester. We are in the process of expanding this across our UK network of colleges, with a full roll-out planned for the start of term in September.
The government, meanwhile, has raised the bar on apprenticeship standards. Earlier this month, Skills Minister John Hayes announced that, from August, apprenticeships for all age groups must run for a minimum of 12 months. The government is also offering up to 40,000 apprenticeship grants to SMEs that recruit their first apprentice in the 16-to-24-year-old bracket. As prime minister David Cameron put it: "Apprenticeships are good for people who want to get ahead, good for business and good for the country."
To tackle the problem of youth unemployment in a significant way, we need to encourage more young people to catch the enterprise and innovation bug and help them develop new skills in the workplace. Given the rising costs of degrees, here is a credible alternative to a university education, offering an earn-while-you-learn route into work.
We, and our network of Peter Jones Enterprise Academies and Further and Higher Education partners, are currently working alongside the likes of CFA, SFEDI and Pearson to develop our Level 5 Apprenticeship framework.
We're keen to encourage more employers of all shapes and sizes to get involved and help us develop and deliver our Level 3 and 5 frameworks.
This is your chance to nurture the country's young talent.
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