It was two years into his first term as Prime Minister that Tony Blair said that his aspiration was to ensure that half of all young people would go on to higher education.
In a landmark speech, delivered just two years after his landslide general election victory, Mr Blair, then riding higher in the polls than any prime minister had for decades, continued a massive trend of young people entering higher education, the level of which has almost doubled since 1990.
However, much of the focus on this has been on increasing numbers of young people going to study at university, rather than other avenues such as apprenticeships.
It is a state of affairs which management and staff at Bradford-based manufacturers Christeyns find frustrating.
The chemical maker has just taken on four apprentices, two more than it originally intended to, bringing its total number of apprentices to 11.
The apprentice scheme at the firm has already won several awards, but for Neville Kildunne, works manager at the firm, the process is made more difficult by the lack of awareness of what an apprenticeship can mean for a young person’s prospects.
“I go into schools for careers days a great deal,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“Ninety per cent say they know nothing about apprenticeships.
“You can’t blame them, it is not in a school’s best interests to push students out of the door. But they should have that option.
“When I talk to teachers I show them a scale of the difference between engineers who came through university and apprenticeships in terms of the debt they would accrue and it adds up to £100,000. It is quite a staggering figure.”
One success story from the Christeyns apprentice programme is Luke Chadwick.
The 23-year-old has risen through the ranks and is currently involved in the planning department, as well as helping develop the firm’s apprentice scheme and mentor its members. He said: “Schools are required to keep people in higher education. I go out to careers fairs or with Ahead Partnership – they all put their hands up for university.
“In general, I think they are one of the best options you can go for, I don’t think degrees are as sought after as perhaps they once were.
“A lot of my friends are only coming out of university now and are struggling to get jobs or not working in graduate jobs.
“I am already on a career path. If they were to apply for a role here they would be less likely to get it than me.
“If you asked a lot of people working here they would probably say the apprentices are some of the most knowledgeable people as you have been everywhere, you have such a good understanding.
“You know how you are affecting each colleague, you are making better judgements.”
Lucy Duckworth, who joined the firm earlier this month on a higher apprenticeship, said that apprenticeships would be ideal for many young people but are simply not given the same prominence as other options.
“They do not really speak about apprenticeships,” the 19-year-old said.
“I feel like I got pushed to university. But when I actually looked at apprenticeships I realised they were not what people say they are.”
Fellow new starter, Adam Brookfield, also 19, added: “When I was at school I had no idea what an apprenticeship actually was.
“You got an allotted hour a week to work on a UCAS form, most people did it to fill out the hour, there was no other option.”