More students are shunning university in favour of apprenticeships, new figures reveal, while employers have been urged to "wake up" to the increasing demand.
The number of apprenticeships has continued to increase, with 27% more vacancies since last year. However the government is warning businesses there is still not enough supply to match the growing popularity of alternative training.
Just under 130,000 vacancies were posted online in England in the past 12 months, while more than 1.4m applications were made online, an increase of a third since 2012, and an average of 11 applications per vacancy.
The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) said the biggest increase in vacancies posted online was in health optical retail, vehicle sales and clinical support.
Skills minister Matthew Hancock said: "We want to see it become the norm that young people either go to university or into an apprenticeship. To match the growing popularity of apprenticeships, I would urge more employers to consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business.
"Research out last week showed that more than 70% of employers say apprentices boosted their service or product - this is testament to the benefits of apprenticeships for both young people and the wider economy."
Jaine Bolton, director of the National Apprenticeship Service, said: "These figures show that the demand for apprenticeships keeps growing. It is the first choice for many talented young people and more employers wanting young talent need to wake up to this fact."
Ann Pickering, O2’s human resources director, commented: "In today’s competitive jobs market, a university degree is no longer viewed by school leavers, or indeed employers, as a one-way ticket into the workplace. This data shows that more and more young people are now viewing apprenticeships as a viable option to paying for an expensive degree.
"With youth unemployment still hovering around a million, it’s now up to us British businesses to ensure that we are providing enough meaningful opportunities for young people and offering credible alternatives to university, including work experience placements and internships as well as apprenticeships.”