‘Blaze A Trail!’ That’s the message to job seekers as England and Wales kick off the start of National Apprenticeship Week. Now in its twelfth year, this annual five-day event highlights the importance of investing in the workforce by celebrating the achievements of apprentices and recognising the support given by businesses and organisations.

By gathering together the entire apprenticeship community, the aim is to encourage more young people to think of apprenticeships as a top choice after school – and as a viable alternative to going to university. 

Throughout the week, a series of nationwide and local events are taking place – last year there were more than 500 – and these will allow employers and apprentices to encourage candidates to sign up, as well as highlight to businesses and the wider community the many benefits of apprenticeships.

Meanwhile, a new report launched to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week is calling on the Welsh Government to boost its own apprenticeships programme and make it ‘world class’. ‘Maximising the Value of Apprenticeships to Wales’ has been welcomed by the Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, who added his government now aims to develop a smoother transition into apprenticeships for young people, as well as improve the visibility of opportunities. He said he was also confident of beating the current target of creating 100,000 new apprenticeships.

Across both England and Wales, from degree apprenticeships to traineeships and advanced to higher apprenticeships, there are certainly ample opportunities for anyone looking to learn skills and build a brand-new career.

No longer seen as second fiddle to studying at college or university, apprenticeships are already attracting more young people, all of whom are keen to continue their further education while earning at the same time.

More businesses are getting behind apprenticeships, too, as owners and managers increasingly recognise the value of having employees with the right skills who can be

immediately productive in the workplace – representing a real-time return on the company’s investment. 

This trend is reflected online where more and more apprenticeship vacancies are becoming available.

The real formula for success can be found in the combination of excellent out-of-school education, normally with a college, and hands-on, work-based learning with an employer. 

Engineering apprenticeships are among the most sought-after, with many choosing to specialise in civil, mechanical, aeronautical, electrical and telecommunications.

That’s welcome news for the industry – it’s estimated that companies across the UK will need 182,000 workers with engineering skills every year up until 2022.

As well as being given high-quality training, apprentice engineers are also well paid and, once qualified, are already several rungs above school-leavers and graduates on the career ladder.

No matter which apprenticeship is chosen, with time being split between the workplace and college or university there’s always a healthy work-education-life balance. 

Of course, being surrounded by experienced professionals, meanwhile, means an apprentice always has a mentor to watch and learn from. This includes so-called ‘soft skills’, such as communication, personal confidence, teamwork and problem solving.

All of these are valuable talents in any jobs sector, but particularly in areas such as admin, customer service and HR.

For apprentices who love working with numbers, meanwhile, the time spent earning while learning can ultimately add up to lucrative full-time jobs in accountancy, insurance, banking and financial services.

If caring for others is a passion, an apprenticeship in social services or healthcare will help you prepare for a wide range of different care roles – including looking after sick, injured or disabled people as an adult nurse or children’s nurse, or supporting those at home or in residential homes as a care home manager, care assistant or residential support worker. 

From engineering and science to production and food and drink, from social services and healthcare to finance and HR, apprenticeships cover nearly every sector. 

There are even apprenticeships in cutting-edge technologies, where even absolute beginners soon become pioneers, leading innovation in workplaces across the UK.

Among the thousands of digital technology roles across the country, for example, the top jobs include cyber security analysts and IT support technicians.

Channel your inner IT guru and you could be a leader in a field that encompasses everything from gaming and virtual reality apps to cyber security and software development.

From plumbing to programming and construction sites to science labs, whatever apprenticeship you choose, be sure to check out the latest earn-while-you-learn opportunities online.