A THIRD of businesses in the south-east are set to take on apprentices.

New research, published today as part of National Apprenticeship Week, shows that 33 per cent of firms plan to hire apprentices in the next five years.

Today marks the start of the seventh National Apprenticeship Week, which is designed to highlight the positive contribution of apprentices to businesses.

The study, carried out by researchers ICM to coincide with the week, found that 45 per cent of employers in the south-east were more likely to offer apprenticeships than they were two years ago.

Of those businesses, 38 per cent said that was because the talent pool was wider due to the increasing popularity of apprenticeships, while 33 per cent said it was now easier to hire apprentices.

Overall, 42 per cent of employers in the region said apprentices stay in their business longer than other recruits.

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business , Innovation and Skills, said: “As we kick off National Apprenticeship Week it’s good to see that employers are increasingly recognising the value apprentices can bring to their businesses.

“Apprentices are now a key and valued part of the workforce for most businesses large or small – and the huge increase which this Government has overseen is one of my proudest achievements.

“Given the grants available to help small businesses take on apprentices, it’s especially good that so many SMEs are embracing apprenticeships in the coming years and that apprentice recruitment now forms a key part of businesses’ plans for sustainable growth.”

Southampton City Council recently approved a series of measures to help young apprentices in the city.

They include setting up a new careers website, a grant scheme and an Enhanced Trainee Scheme alongside the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, while the council will also hire more apprentices.