New figures from the Skills Funding Agency have revealed that the number of people taking part in an apprenticeship over the course of 2012/13, has hit a record high.

The figures showed that almost 860,000 people took part or are still taking part in an apprenticeship between last year and this year, representing a rise of almost 270,000 when compared to three years ago.

The figures also showed that the number of people taking part in higher apprenticeships increased by 50,000 over the course of this year.

More than 1.5 million people have signed up for an apprenticeship place since 2010, highlighting the positive way in which the 'earn as you learn' medium is viewed. However, despite this positivity, one age group which saw a slight decrease in participation was the under-19 age group. This trend was attributed to the fact that, as all apprenticeships now involve a job, programme-led apprenticeships – which were aimed specifically at 16 to 18-year-olds – are no longer in existence, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills confirmed.

Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock, (pictured) confirmed that the figures were extremely positive news for the apprenticeship sector, despite the slight drop-off in younger apprentice numbers. “This is good news for the economy, and good news for those getting the skills they need to prosper,” he said.

“There are now more options than ever before with a focus on the quality and rigour that people and employers want from apprenticeships. Our insistence that they must have a minimum duration, involve on-the-job training, and respond to the needs of employers means that it is rapidly becoming the new norm to take an apprenticeship or go to university,” Mr Hancock went on to say.