The number of apprenticeship vacancies in the UK rose sharply at the start of this academic year but employers are failing to keep up with demand, with 12 applications for every position.
Figures from the National Apprenticeship Service show 37,410 vacancies were posted online between August and October last year, up 24% on the previous year. Over the same period applications jumped 43% to 461,530. The number of female applicants rose sharply, to 47% of the total, from 43% the previous year.
The numbers were welcomed by the government, which has made apprenticeships a flagship policy for young people, more than a million of whom are not in education, employment or training (NEET).
Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock said schemes allowing young people to learn and earn simultaneously were growing in appeal. But he encouraged more employers to become involved.
"With each online position attracting an average of 12 applications, demand continues to outstrip supply and I would urge more employers to consider how they can take advantage of this available pool of talent and grow their business through apprenticeships."
There was less positive news for the coalition's push to rebalance the economy towards manufacturing and exports. The latest figures suggested that the greatest numbers of both applications and vacancies were in the business, administration and law sectors.
The north-east recorded the greatest leap in apprenticeship applications, up 60% on the previous year. That was followed by Yorkshire and the Humber and the south-west (58%).
The latest government figures, which cover actual starts on schemes rather than vacancies, showed there were 868,700 apprenticeships in the academic year 2012/13, up 77% from 2009-10.
But those headline figures do not translate into vast new opportunities for young people and the biggest gains were for over 25s. In that period, the number of over 25s on apprenticeships trebled to 392,900. Under 19s on apprenticeships fell to 181,300 and the 19-24 age group saw a more modest 40% rise to 294,500.
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