When it comes to apprenticeships, Cumbria is bucking the national trend.

Last year,10.8 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds participated in an apprenticeship, compared to 5.5 per cent in England as a whole and 6.5 per cent in the North West.

Sarah Harrington, director of Cumbria for leading careers organisation Inspira, said she believed more and more young people were realising the benefits that came with taking the apprenticeship route.

“Apprenticeships are a great option for young people and a great alternative for young people who either feel that university is out of their reach financially or they are not ready to leave home,” she said.

“They give people a great option for working towards qualifications in a different way.

“You are getting into employment so much earlier and there’s a lot of options to progress quickly and obviously you are beginning to earn a good salary.

“The whole thing about earning while you learn, with no admission fees and no student loan and no debt with the training costs covered is a real bonus.

“There are lots and loads of different types of apprenticeships, whether that’s about business or marketing or construction or engineering. There are lots of different types of qualifications too from HNCs through to HNDs and right through to degree apprenticeships.”

She said although there were well-known big employers taking on large numbers of apprentices every year, there were also myriad smaller firms to choose from.

“Immediately people think about Sellafield and the Sellafield supply chain and your Jacobs and Morgan Sindalls,” she said.

“People know about the big companies that do those annual intakes like Sellafield and BAE, but there are lots of smaller employers who are recruiting all year around.”

Mike Smith OBE, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership board member and chair of its people, employment and skills strategy group, said the positive attitude to apprenticeships was partly born out of them being the norm for successive generations. “What that has meant is that in the minds of parents apprenticeships are seen as a valid and worthwhile route to a long and rewarding career,” he said.

“The success of apprenticeships is that that has trickled down to other non-traditional areas such as accountancy, professional services and the NHS.

“We’ve got some really good apprenticeship providers in colleges and the university and private providers. There is a commitment from employers to apprenticeships.

“You’ve got a local population of parents and grandparents who see value in apprenticeships and you have a provider base that provides some of the best apprenticeships in the country.”

Craig Ivison, head of skills with the LEP, said there were apprentices working in every industry in Cumbria.

He said: “The apprenticeship programme really underpins skill development in all of those sectors,” he said.

“For 16 to 18-year-olds the structure delivers the highest apprenticeship success rate in the country and for 18-plus it’s the second highest.

“We shouldn’t hide that light under a bushel. It’s very important to recognise the talent of the people who deliver those apprenticeships as well as the apprentices themselves.”

“The challenge is to continue to drive forward what’s a real success story.”

Mike said the high success rate for apprentices meant they were an increasingly attractive option for employers.

“From an employer point of view that means that for every pound they spend on apprentice placement they are going to get a pound back and more,” he said.