As increasing numbers of students decide to forget about university and head straight into the world of work instead, 2013 is being hailed as the year of the apprenticeship.

The growing range of apprenticeships on offer – from plumbing, plastering and carpentry to journalism and accountancy - gives young people the chance to earn money while they pick up skills to take into their future careers.

Learning on the job is so popular these days as university fees, house prices and general living costs spiral ever higher and the appeal of combining practical skills with classroom education becomes ever more tempting.

Matthew Hancock, Skills Minister, told the Independent newspaper: “With more vacancies than ever before, apprenticeships are fast becoming the norm for young people who want to achieve their career goals through an alternative route to university.”

While apprenticeships are appealing for the apprentices themselves, they are also positive news for the employers taking them on. A recent survey of employers which ranked potential recruits in order of employability, revealed that many favoured those with higher apprenticeships over university graduates. Apprentices were ranked at 7.98 in the survey, while university graduates were given a 7.58 ranking, and those with just A-levels were ranked at 6.28.

Living costs were listed as one of the key reasons why earning as you learn is becoming so popular. According to Lloyds TSB’s third annual student finance report, almost one in five full-time students reported that they could not afford to get through the month. Thirty-eight per cent said that they were only just able to make ends meet. Almost half of the student questioned for the survey said that they had been forced to take on a part-time job in order to ease the financial pressures they faced.