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Apprentices: How easy is it to create three million more?

George Osborne has pledged to use money cut from the welfare budget to create three million new apprenticeships to help young people into jobs and give a boost to UK productivity. But many people still view apprenticeships as a second-rate career choice. So will the plan work?

When Naim Hamade left school aged 18, he was painfully shy. But he won a place as an apprentice with BT, earning a starting salary of £16,000.

“I was chucked in at the deep end, but that was a good way to learn,” he says.

Based at the BT Tower in London, he learned how to troubleshoot problems in the IT system and helped launch new BT channels. Now 21, he has developed the confidence he lacked.

Like his friends who chose to go to university, he’s gaining formal qualifications – he’s just earned a foundation degree in IT. But unlike them, he isn’t saddled with large debts.

“They’re quite jealous of the opportunities I get here. Not just the financial side of it, but the skills, the qualifications,” he says.

For Naim, the benefits are clear, but also for employers such as BT, apprenticeships offer a way to bridge a skills gap that many identify as one of the key obstacles to growth.

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