With National Apprenticeship Week in full swing last week, and since youth unemployment remains at 20%, it's more important than ever that we do everything we can to help young people into work. I'm an example of how an apprenticeship can give you a job for life after joining British Gas as an apprentice 34 years ago, back in 1980, and now I run our six training academies across the UK training the engineers of tomorrow.
Having been an apprentice, I am now very aware that there are a considerable amount of people out there with a negative view of Apprenticeships - whether that is through a bad experience or through just hearing the ever-changing Chinese whispers that get thrown around regarding Apprenticeships. Trust me, the Apprenticeship experience is simply only a positive one.
I am such a massive convert to the business value in Apprenticeships - I just want to shout about it and make more businesses realise the opportunity and see more young people realising their potential. It seems that finally more people are cottoning on to the value of being an apprentice, but we just need more businesses to take it on.
The IAC is giving learners something they have not had before - a national voice. The changing landscape of apprenticeships in this country, as Government endeavours to secure the vocational route as a central pathway into fulfilling careers, requires input from those who will be affected - the apprentices themselves.
The manner in which the government is seeking to introduce apprenticeships serves only to polarise the debate, ensuring that young people are either classified as 'apprenticeship' material, or are left to join the ranks of thousands of graduates competing for the grossly limited number of entry-level jobs.
The gauntlet has been thrown down to businesses, training providers and colleges to compete for the title of apprentice team of 2013 which opens for nominations this week.
What have Del Boy and the Apprentice candidates got in common? Well, nothing, as it happens: because whereas Del Boy could have made a fortune selling broken tat to idiots, his Apprentice counterparts couldn't sell half price cracked ice and miles and miles of carpet tiles if their lives (or rather careers) depended on it.