Steve Gray is chief executive of Training 2000

It is tough at the moment for young people leaving full-time education, at a time when employers are demanding more practical, on-the-job skills from potential employees.

More and more businesses are coming to appreciate the advantages of taking on apprentices, which include addressing skills gaps, providing increased motivation to the workforce and improving productivity and competitiveness.

At Training 2000, we work closely with many employers across the region so we hear first-hand what a positive impact Apprenticeships are having on their business.

Companies that employ apprentices state that they have seen an increase in productivity and a boost to their competitiveness, whilst reducing their recruitment costs by being able to develop employees from the outset, rather than relying on external recruitment.

Also many businesses recognise that through an Apprenticeship, employees receive training in the latest industry standards and gain the specialist skills required to keep pace with the latest technology and working practices.

Apprenticeships also provide an alternative to the academic route that is unsuitable for some young people. On-the-job training allows employees to gain real-world experience as well as earning while they learn.

Training 2000 is one of the largest providers of Apprenticeship training in the UK with more than 1,900 learners starting our programmes each year. We offer Apprenticeships in six areas: Automotive, Business, Construction, Dental Nursing, Engineering & Manufacturing and Health & Social Care.

Research conducted in 2009* indicated that 88% of employers that employ apprentices believe that Apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce, while 83% of employers rely on their Apprenticeships programme to provide the skilled workers for the future and one in five employers are hiring more apprentices to help them through the tough economic climate.

I am a former apprentice myself, so I know how the system works and that it is possible to get the highest jobs in a lot of companies. While many of my school peers focused on studying full-time, the working and learning combination really helped my progression. I went to college one day a week to study for my qualifications while working full-time, putting my skills into practice.

After leaving school, I started my working life as an apprentice Auto Electrician and soon realised the benefits of work-based learning. When combined with the support I received from my work colleagues and family, I found the extra confidence to believe in my abilities, and strive to do better which has helped me work my way up the career ladder.

From that initial exposure to the working world, I instantly recognised the importance of supporting and encouraging people to achieve a better future. That thought has stayed with me ever since, and through my current position at Training 2000, I have been able to provide the support and encouragement needed to thousands of people and do my part in bridging the skills gap.

Training 2000's Apprenticeships are designed to offer peace of mind to employers. We use leading edge training facilities and methods, and our staff come from the industry they teach, providing vital background knowledge to their skills. Our completion and retention rates are well above the national average, showing the high quality of our programmes and offering an excellent return on investment.

We offer financial assistance to meet the cost of training and assessment and we have a dedicated Career Development Team, whose job it is to ensure employers and learners both get the most from our courses.

As a parent, School Governor and CEO of a training provider, I want to provide the very best opportunities for people in starting their careers through Apprenticeships, this starts with the right advice and guidance and this is critical to ensure people make the right choices.

It can be a difficult choice for young people to decide which path to follow, and the Apprenticeship route is becoming increasingly desirable. For some, university will undoubtedly be the clear choice, but nowadays it is possible to get qualifications through on-the-job training, for example NVQ Level 5 is equivalent to a degree. Some students may also be looking at possible routeways into university, and for those that want to experience hands-on learning, an Apprenticeship or Advanced Apprenticeship can be a stepping stone to university and a successful career.

The wide range of Apprenticeships now available show our country's renewed commitment to investing in our future business skills and it is exciting to see that Apprenticeships are being given the respect they deserve.

Steve Gray is chief executive of Training 2000, based in Blackburn. Specialising in employer led skills and business training and qualifications, Training 2000 has more than 40 years' experience in delivering high quality programmes for young people and adults.

For further information contact Training 2000 on 01254 586534 or go to their website at

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