Research shows apprentices delivered around �1.8bn of net economic benefits to UK organisations in the last year

More than 20 000 apprenticeships pledged

More than 20,000 new apprenticeships have been pledged by employers as part of National Apprenticeship Week.

Nearly half (47 per cent) of the employers creating new apprenticeships are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), though big firms such as BT, Network Rail and British Airways have announced new roles too.

The news comes as research from the Association of Accounting Technicians revealed that apprentices delivered around £1.8bn of net economic benefits to UK organisations in the last year.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "The government is putting an end to the damaging divide between vocational and academic learning. We are committing the biggest ever investment in apprenticeships and are on track to create two million apprenticeships over the course of this Parliament.

"The resounding success of this year’s National Apprenticeship week demonstrates that apprenticeships are deservedly becoming more popular with business of all sizes. Apprentices already contribute £1.8bn to the economy and with these further commitments, thousands more people will now be able to get the practical skills they need to build careers and help firms grow.”

Prime Minister David Cameron also announced the next round of Trailblazer employers – 29 new groups of employers who will lead the transformation of apprenticeships – including big names such as Tata Steel, British Airways and BMW.

Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock MP said: “"We want to make going to university or into an apprenticeship the new norm, and over half of young people say they would like to do an apprenticeship if one were available. So it’s great that as National Apprenticeship Week 2014 comes to a close we can announce that 20,432 new positions are to be created.”

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