HUNDREDS more young people in Suffolk and Essex are taking up apprenticeships each year, according to new figures.

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A total of 6,270 people in Suffolk began apprenticeship programmes in 2011/12, compared to 5,360 the previous year, and just 3,710 in 2009/10.

While in Essex 11,590 young people signed up to apprenticeships in 2011/12, 10.930 in 2010/11 and 6,410 the year before.

The statistics, from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, also revealed the three most popular apprenticeships are business, administration and law, health, public services and care and engineering and manufacturing technologies.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock, who is West Suffolk MP, said: “Apprenticeship starts in Suffolk have shown consistently strong growth over the last few years.

“This increase pays testament to both the improvements we have made to ensure the quality of these schemes, and growing support and buy-in from employers.

“But we know that in order to make apprenticeships a true alternative to higher education, they must be an option for learners at all levels.

“I recently announced that apprenticeships will soon be available at graduate and post-graduate levels too, in sectors including law, accountancy and insurance.

“This new route to the professions raises the profile of apprenticeships and gives many more people the opportunity to reach their potential.” Apprenticeships are also available for careers including agriculture, horticulture and animal care, leisure travel and tourism and languages, literature and culture.

In Suffolk, the Bury St Edmunds constituency has the highest sign-up for apprenticeships with 1,100, with Ipswich just behind on 1,060.

Meanwhile in Essex, Colchester boasts the most in the county with 1,100 followed by Chelmsford which has 890.

Elliot Knight, from Botesdale, is one of those to become an apprentice after dropping out of college.

The 21-year-old said: “I left college to do my apprenticeship. I was studying public services and discovered the police were not recruiting for a few years so I thought it would be a bit of a dead end.

“I started my apprenticeship in service in the food and beverage industry in November 2011 and am now on my level three course while working at The Four Horseshoes pub in Thornham Magna.”

He added: “I would highly recommend apprenticeships to anyone that has a feel for what they want to do.

“You’re learning while earning money and end up with a qualification.”

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