Apprenticeships attract 11 applications per vacancy
A record 11 applications are being made for each apprenticeship vacancy in the UK, the latest official data suggests.
Almost 370,000 applications were submitted between February and April, while 32,600 vacancies were advertised in the same period.
But competition was as high as 17 per place in the arts, media and ICT.
The National Apprenticeship Service said there had been a 32% increase in demand for such subsidised on-the-job training placements since last year.
However, vacancies have not kept pace with rising demand, going up only 15% over the same period in the previous year.
The number of applications per vacancy went above 11 for the first time, although it had been hovering around 10 for some time, according to the NAS.
Nonetheless, the NAS said there were 17,700 available vacancies online late last month, the highest on record.Alternative career route
The most popular area for apprenticeships was business and administration, with 101,510 applications made and 7,702 vacancies posted online.
But those seeking apprenticeships in the arts, publishing, media and ICT face the stiffest competition with 17 applications per vacancy.
Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said apprenticeships were fast becoming the norm for young people who want to achieve their career goals through an alternative route to university.
But he appealed to more businesses to offer young people a chance to train in their companies.
He said: "We want more employers to take advantage of the advice and support available from the National Apprenticeship Service and consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business."Grants of £1,500
NAS executive director David Way said the figures demonstrated that the popularity of apprenticeships continued to rise and in a greater range of occupations than before.
"The increase in vacancies shows that more and more individuals are seeing apprenticeships as a great way to start out in their chosen career."
Government offers small and medium-sized companies grants of £1,500 to take on a 16 to 24-year-old as an apprentice.
After moves to strengthen apprenticeships, they all now have to meet centrally specified standards and last at least a year.
The changes came following the government-commissioned Richard review, which said the definition of apprenticeship had been "stretched too far" and needed to be rethought.
Shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden said: "At a time when there are almost one million young people out of work, creating new quality apprenticeships was a key test for David Cameron.
"But today's figures show that as demand massively outstrips supply, this Tory-led government has failed to deliver the apprenticeships this country needs."
Liz Field, chief executive of Financial Skills Partnership, said the figures show there had been a positive reaction to apprenticeship training for the finance sector, which has not traditionally trained workers through the apprenticeship route.
"However, there is now an even bigger challenge to businesses to further embrace apprenticeships and roll them out in a way that better meets this increased demand. This does mean more apprenticeship places are needed and the focus should remain on quality of the apprenticeship offered by employers."
Vacancies advertised on the NAS database account for 80% of all UK vacancies.