27/10/2011 12:06 BST | Updated 27/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Apprenticeships Rise By 'More Than Half'

The number of people starting apprenticeships this year has risen by more than half compared to 2010, figures show.

Of the 442,700 new apprenticeships in the 2010-11 academic year, 128,300 were under 19 years of age and more than 138,000 were aged 19 to 24.

The government put aside a £25m fund in July in order to support 10,000 higher apprenticeships in firms. This is particularly aimed at smaller businesses where there is a skills shortage.

Business secretary Vince Cable said he was "particularly pleased" sectors were continuing to back apprenticeships, "despite tough economic times".

The drive to create more apprenticeship places has been strongly supported by the Huffington Post UK.

"By helping firms build a stronger skills base, this investment puts businesses on solid foundations to deliver sustainable growth and a more balanced and inclusive economy", Cable added.

“The Government will continue to improve and strengthen the apprenticeships programme to drive up standards, cut bureaucracy for smaller firms and deliver more advanced level and high tech training.”

The largest apprenticeship recruitment was in business, administration and law - which saw 130,290 people take up apprenticeships in this academic year.

Minister for universities David Willetts has continually encouraged young people who fail to get a university place to consider applying for an apprenticeship as an alternative.

But Labour's shadow minster for further education Gordon Marsden insisted the government was still not doing enough to boost apprenticeships for 16 to 24-year-olds, calling the lack of places a "black hole".

"The key task now for Ministers is to work urgently on new mechanisms with businesses and colleges to deliver the crucial uplift in available apprenticeships for young people", he said.

The figures come after the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) revealed businesses were "reluctant" to hire apprentices as they "lacked basic skills". The BCC announced only one in five firms had taken on an apprentice in the past year due to concerns about poor skills including numeracy and literacy.