All this week we have been marking National Apprenticeship Week, which is really important in raising awareness of apprenticeships not just among young people (and some older workers) but also among employers. Increasing numbers of firms recognise how useful apprentices can be, but there is a lot more to be done, especially in small businesses.
I have been digging out the figures for Ashford, which show that there were 910 apprenticeships started in 16/17, the last year for which we have figures. This is a respectable but not sensational figure, and what is interesting is the division between the different age groups.
The traditional image of an apprentice is of a young worker at the start of a career. In fact the under-19s produced only 210 of these apprentices, with the 19-24s providing another 250. The biggest single group were the over-25s, who took up 450 apprenticeships.
The big jump in the number of older workers becoming apprentices came in 2014/15, when it went up from 270 to 440. I suspect that this indicates how long it takes a change in attitude to take hold. Since 2010 Ministers have been wanting to increase the relative attractiveness of this route to a career, but it takes time.
One of the big changes in recent years has been the extension of apprenticeships to areas of business which did not traditionally support them. The usual image is of a trainee builder or plumber, but these days all kinds of companies and professions offer apprenticeships, and certainly in the Ashford area there are the full range of chances on offer.
One fact remains though, which is that an apprenticeship offers the change to learn and earn at the same time. This is always an attractive prospect, and I hope many more Ashford workers take advantage of it in the coming years.