02/04/2015 10:47 BST | Updated 31/05/2015 06:59 BST

The Battle for Apprenticeships Must Be Fought on Two Fronts

Raising awareness of apprenticeships should not just be limited to the confines of the classroom - it must be taken to employers directly.

In today's globalized world, Britain's future prosperity lies in ensuring its workforce has the necessary skills and training that employers demand.

With tuition fees at £9,000 per year and employment prospects for many graduates still uncertain, joining an apprenticeship programme is an increasingly popular route. The Government, rightly, commends itself on having created over two million apprenticeships since the last election.

But, more can be done.

The battle to promote apprenticeships should not only be limited to the classroom - although this is vital. The virtues and advantages of apprenticeships must also be showcased to employers themselves.

These are two sides of the same coin.

Employers must be aware of the variety of skills and talent that is available to them. If the gap between promoting apprenticeships in schools and raising awareness among employers is bridged, the number of new apprenticeships could increase significantly. This not only benefits businesses that can increase their staff's skills, loyalty and productivity - it would also give apprentices the opportunity to build a career and earn a living; vital components to creating the 'aspiration nation' our political masters so desire.

An increase in apprenticeships reduces unemployment, builds a skilled workforce and strengthens our economy as a whole.

The Government and the European Social Fund (ESF) recognise this and have committed £2.6 billion to improving employment, skills and social inclusion measures in England. The funds aim to support national and local strategies to extend employment opportunities and to develop a skilled and adaptable workforce. The promotion of apprenticeships to private sector employers plays an important role in achieving this goal.

However, this is easier said than done. Schemes designed to directly engage apprentices with employers are few and far between.

One recent example was an 'apprenticeship bus tour' that toured Leicestershire last week to mark National Apprenticeship Week.

Funded by the European Social Fund, and managed by Pera Training, the UK's largest provider of manufacturing apprenticeships, the bus tour raised awareness of apprenticeships by meeting with employers directly.

On board were a team of apprentices prepared to answer any questions that the employers had as part of the national Brathay Challenge, where 80 teams of nine apprentices from across England compete to be awarded the title of apprentice team of the year.

The tour's chief coordinator and Higher Apprenticeships Project Manager at Pera Training, Bally Bhogal, explained:

"Employee training is crucial in boosting staff productivity and, ultimately, business revenue. Pera Training is delighted to deliver this initiative in conjunction with our partners, which is intended to promote apprenticeships and other funded training opportunities to SMEs and employees in the Leicestershire area.

"There is an array of apprenticeships on offer to employers and their employees, covering roles such as business administration, social media, engineering and even website design.

The apprenticeship bus tour is a good start in bringing apprenticeships to the forefront of employers and not simply limiting promotion to within schools that support the apprenticeships agenda.

Only in this way will Britain's economy be able to fully reap the benefits of apprenticeships, and secure a competitive workforce that can compete in a globalised world economy for decades to come.

The tour was also supported by a host of Parliamentary candidates, including Conservative Party Parliamentary Candidate for Leicester East, Kishan Devani, who explained:

"The Conservative-led Coalition Government's track record on apprenticeships is commendable. It is right that we are able to see this type of collaboration between the public and private sector, where public sector funds are used by employers such as Pera Training to raise awareness among local and regional employers of the fantastic training opportunities that are available to them.

I am delighted to be able to support such an initiative for the people of Leicester!"