24,000 youngsters apply for 221 BT apprenticeships

TELECOMS group BT has received more than 100 applications for each of its apprenticeship places this year, the company said today.

BT has had nearly 24,000 applications for the 221 places available on the apprenticeship scheme, a spokeswoman confirmed.

More young people applied for the positions than the total applications to Oxford University, which attracted 17,000 applications for its 3,000 undergraduate places.

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Successful applicants go on to specialise in information technology, telecoms or customer service, and will gain qualifications including BTEC or foundation degrees.

The high interest in the programme - which has a starting annual salary of 11,000 to 14,000 - reflects the growing rate of unemployment in the country's six million 18 to 24-year-olds, which is currently 17.5 per cent, and a spike in the birth rate in the early nineties.

As a result, more young people are also applying for education places - with university admissions service Ucas reporting in June an 11.7 per cent rise on the previous year in applications received.

Last week, it emerged growing numbers of school leavers were applying directly to companies once thought of as graduate employers rather than going to university.

PricewaterhouseCoopers said applications for its school-leavers' entry scheme doubled to 800 in the past two years, while Network Rail said it had 4,000 entries for more than 200 apprenticeship places this year.

City & Guilds, which runs vocational qualifications, said interest this summer is up 20 per cent on last year.

Meanwhile, the Push Student Debt Survey revealed students starting university this autumn will graduate with almost 25,000 worth of debt.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - led by Lib Dem MP Vince Cable - announced plans to fund 8,000 places for full-time UK and EU students, but also to create 50,000 extra apprenticeship places.

The scramble to find gainful employment or a place in higher education will come to a head this Thursday when A-level results are released.