By Daniel Hunter

Government funding to help businesses take on an apprentice has led to the creation of at least 18,900 new Apprenticeships in England in the past year. That’s according to provisional data released today by the National Apprenticeship Service.

The data covers the nine month period since the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers of 16 to 24 year olds (AGE 16 to 24) was launched in February 2012. It reveals there were 6,800 Apprenticeship starts, for which a payment was made through the initiative, with a further 12,100 in the pipeline between February and October 2012.

The figures also indicate encouraging signs for 16-18 year olds looking for an Apprenticeship. Around two thirds of the grants awarded were to recruit an apprentice aged under 19. With regards to level, 14,200 grants were given to fund Intermediate Level Apprenticeships and 4,500 for Advanced Level Apprenticeships.

AGE 16 to 24 was introduced last year to help small and medium sized businesses with less than 1000 employees take on an apprentice and secure the skills they need to grow. The £1,500 grant is available to employers who have never employed an apprentice before, or have not done so in last 12 months. Initially only on offer during the 2012/13 financial year, it was announced last month that the funding has been extended until at least 31st December 2013.

“We are delighted AGE 16 to 24 has been so well received by businesses and that, as a result, it has created a wide range of new opportunities for young people," David Way, Chief Executive of the National Apprenticeship Service, said.

"It is particularly encouraging to see that a substantial number of the grants have gone towards creating Apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds. This has been a key focus.

“Apprenticeships can deliver the skills that businesses need to grow and I would therefore encourage more organisations to explore the funding available and find out how they can benefit from introducing an apprentice into their workforce.”

The National Apprenticeship Service hopes AGE 16 to 24 will encourage more employers to consider recruiting through Apprenticeships, which now cover more than 250 skills and industries across 1,400 job roles and three Apprenticeship levels.

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