The government wants to ensure that IT apprenticeships are considered as equal in value to university degrees as a career path for young people who want to work in the industry.

Speaking at an e-skills event marking the beginning of National Apprenticeship Week, Matthew Hancock minister of state for Skills & Enterprise said that IT employers have a role to play by designing high quality and relevant apprenticeship programmes. Prime Minister David Cameron announced this new approach to apprenticeships in October.

"School leavers should have the chance to go to university or into an apprenticeship. It should be the norm. Our job is to make sure that they are two high quality options," he said.

"We are trying to get more employers engaged, directly going into schools and colleges, offering work experience and apprenticeships."

Nearly 24,000 people started an IT apprenticeship in the past two years, almost double the number in the previous two years. Telecoms company BT recently created around 730 new apprenticeships and Virgin Media last month announced over a 100 apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships will be viewed as high quality "as they become more responsive to the needs of employeers", Hancock said. But he warned that the change would not be overnight: "This is a culture change over a long period of time."

In December, figures from The Data Service revealed that the number of IT apprenticeships had fallen 2.7 percent despite the government's efforts to promote the route into the sector.

However, e-skills said that the figures did not tell the full story, and claimed that the opposite was true.

Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK, said at the time: "As of today, approaching 700 IT higher apprentices have been through or are on programmes developed with our support, whereas just a couple of years ago there were almost no higher apprenticeships in IT."

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