Five questions answered on apprenticeship application rises

Applications are up 32 per cent year on year.

The National Apprenticeship Service has said that its data shows online applications for apprenticeships have significantly increased. We answer five questions on this latest jobs data.

By how much have online applications for apprenticeships risen?

According to the data, applications are up by a third. Applications are up 32 per cent year on year, with over 1,403,920 applications made for vacancies in the past 12 months.

How many apprenticeships are there currently available?

National Apprenticeship Service says apprenticeships are popular with employees. It stated that close to 129,000 vacancies were posted online in 2012/13 compared to 101,000 in 2011/12, representing a growth of 27 per cent.

Demand is outstripping supply, but only marginally. There is an average of 11 applicants for each of the 129,000 vacancies posted online.

What are the most popular apprenticeships applied for?

Business and administration is the most popular, with 384,840 online applications made. Second is childcare with 102,450. Third is customer service, with 98,210 applications. Fourth is IT, Software, Web and Telecoms Professional, with 83,760, and fifth is vehicle maintenance and repair with 67,750.

What has the government said about these latest figures?

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said: "We want to see it become the norm that young people either go to university or into an apprenticeship.

"To match the growing popularity of apprenticeships, I would urge more employers to consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business."

What has The National Apprenticeship Service said about the figures?

Jaine Bolton, Director of the National Apprenticeship Service said: "With such strong demand for Apprenticeships, it is vital that we encourage more employers to take advantage of the benefits that Apprenticeships bring. With dedicated support from the National Apprenticeship Service and the AGE 16-24 grant available to small and medium businesses, there really has never been a better time to recruit an Apprentice.

"86 per cent of apprentices stay in employment after their initial Apprenticeship finishes (vi), so it’s no surprise that more than half of young people would choose an Apprenticeship if one was available."

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

Photo: Getty Images
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Bomb Isil? That's exactly what they want

The government appears not to answer the nature of its enemy, warns Maria Norris.

As MPs are set to vote on further airstrikes in Syria, it is difficult to shake off the feeling that the government does not fully appreciate the complexity of the problem Isil poses. Just a cursory glance at its magazine, the pronouncements of its leaders and its ideology reveals that Isil is desperate for Western bombs to fall out of the sky. As Martin Chulov argues, Isil is fighting a war it believes was preordained since the early days of Islam. Isil’s obsession with the city of Dabiq, in Northern Syria, stems from a hadith which prophesises that the ‘Crusader’ army will land in the city as a precursor to a final battle where Islam will emerge victorious. Dabiq is also the name of its magazine, which starts every issue with the same quote: "The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify -- by Allah's permission -- until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq". Isil wants a war with the West. If we don’t negotiate with terrorists, then we also should not give them what they want.

Further, bombs are indiscriminate and will inevitably lead to the suffering of those trapped in Isil territories. Isil is counting on this suffering to swell their ranks. Civilian suffering from airstrikes only underline the narrative that the West is at war with Islam, which plays directly into Isil’s hands. And despite misleading headlines and the genuine government concern with individuals fleeing to Syria, Isis is supremely unpopular. It is no wonder that its magazine is filled with glossy adds begging people to move to its territories.  You cannot be a state without people. Terrorist attacks such as Paris thus have a two-pronged purpose: they provoke the West to respond with its military, and they act as a recruitment drive. The fact that fake Syrian passports were found around the sites of the Paris attacks is no coincidence as Isil are both seeking to stem the flow of refugees from its territories and hoping to provoke an Islamophobic backlash. They hope that, as more Muslims feel alienated in the West, more will join them, not just as fighters, but as the doctors, nurses and teachers it desperately needs.

In addition to this, airstrikes overlook the fact that Isil is a result of what Fawaz Gerges calls a severe, organic institutional crisis in the Middle East. In a lecture at the London School of Economics earlier this year, Gerges pointed out the dysfunction created when a region that is incredibly resource rich also is also deeply undemocratic, riddled with corruption, food insecurity, unemployment and poverty. This forms an institutional vacuum that is filled by non-state actors as the population does not trust its political structures. Further, the civil war in Syria is also the site of the toxic soup of Middle Eastern state dysfunction. Iran supports Assad, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, fund anti-Shia groups in Syria. Throw in the Kurdish conflict, Turkey’s ambiguous position and Russian bombs, it is difficult to see how airstrikes will solve anything.

Finally, it is crucial that Isil is seen as a direct result of the Iraq war. The American-led invasion destroyed the institutions, giving the Shia majority power almost overnight, creating deep dissatisfaction in the Sunni regions of Iraq. On top of this thousands of foreign fighters flooded Iraq to fight the invaders, attracting disenfranchised and angry Sunnis. The result is that since 2003, Iraq has been embroiled in a sectarian civil war.  It is in civil war, inherently connected to the Iraq War, that you find the roots of Isil. As even the Prime Minister concedes that ground troops are necessary, albeit it regional ground troops with its own set of problems, it is important to consider what further monster can arise from the ashes of another ill-thought out military intervention in the Middle East.
We have had decades of military intervention in the Middle East with disastrous consequences. Airstrikes represent business as usual, when what we actually need is a radically new approach. Who is funding Isil? Who is buying its oil? How to curb Isil’s recruitment drives? What can be done about the refugees? How to end the conflict in Syria? What happens to Assad? These are questions hopefully being addressed in talks recently held in Vienna with Russian, Ira, the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states. Airstrikes do not answer any of these questions. What airstrikes do is give Isil exactly what it is asking for. Surely this is reason enough not to bomb Syria. 

Maria W. Norris is a PhD candidate and a teacher at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her PhD is on the UK counter-terrorism strategy since 9/11 and its relationship with identity. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.