By Daniel Hunter

According to new figures released by the National Apprenticeship Service, almost 370,000 Apprenticeship applications were submitted online between February and April 2013. This represents growth of over 32%, when compared to the same period last year.

Apprenticeship vacancies also witnessed significant growth. Over 32,600 vacancies were advertised online in the three months — an increase of almost 15% on the previous year. On the 26 April 17,700 live vacancies were available online, the highest number recorded.

"With more vacancies than ever before, Apprenticeships are fast becoming the norm for young people who want to achieve their career goals through an alternative route to University," Matthew Hancock MP, Skills Minister, said.

"We want more employers to take advantage of the advice and support available from the National Apprenticeship Service and consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business."

Two new guides to hiring an apprentice have been developed in response to Jason Holt’s Review of Apprenticeships and are designed to encourage employers, especially small and medium sized businesses, take on an apprentice.

Through, employers can access:

· A small and medium sized employers guide to hiring an apprentice
· A large employer toolkit to help set up Apprenticeships in an organisation

Jason Holt, entrepreneur and author of the Holt Review, said: “It is vital that we do more to demonstrate how all employers can grow their own workforce through Apprenticeships. For smaller businesses, this is even more crucial as apprentices help improve productivity while reducing costs.”

David Way, Executive Director of the National Apprenticeship Service said: “The National Apprenticeship Service aims to make it really easy for employers to hire an apprentice. The launch of these new online employer tools will further enhance the service we already offer employers — whatever their size and whatever their needs. For SMEs there is also the added incentive of £1500, to assist them in the recruitment of apprentices.”

Among the fastest growing Apprenticeships, in terms of the percentage increase in vacancies advertised online are Vehicle Sales (916% increase year on year), the Power Industry (840%), Clinical Healthcare Support (608%), Advanced Engineering Construction (428%) and Leisure Management (425%).

While Arts, Media and Publishing and Information Communication Technology were the most competitive sectors to apply for (with over 17 applications per vacancy), the most competitive individual subjects to apply for were Plumbing and Heating, Bus and Coach engineering / Maintenance, Animal Care, Health Pharmacy Services and Construction Specialist.

Other key highlights from the Q3 2012/13 data include:

- The most popular day for submitting Apprenticeship applications in the period was Monday 18 March 2013, just after National Apprenticeship Week, when 6,730 applications were made in 24 hours.

- London recorded the biggest growth in the number of online vacancies advertised, with 4,210 vacancies posted by employers, a year on year increase of more than 29%. The South Central and Central Eastern regions posted around 25% more vacancies in 2013 than at the same time last year.

- But London also saw the most competition for each online vacancy, with potential apprentices submitting almost 74,000 applications — an average of 17 applications for every vacancy.

- The North East and the East Midlands were also highly competitive areas to apply for an Apprenticeship.

- Herefordshire, Camden, Kingston upon Hull and Salford all recorded more than 150% increases in the number of vacancies available online.

- Rutland, Blackburn with Darwen, Herefordshire, Brent and Middlesborough saw the largest rises in the number of applications submitted.

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