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BT rings industry changes

BT, one of the country's largest apprenticeship employers, has said that it wants to help train its entire industry to help meet unprecedented demand for training places.

Andy Palmer, head of skills at the telecoms company, said it had received 26,000 applications for its 236 apprentice places - making the programme more competitive than Oxford or Cambridge universities.

The company has already suggested it would expand the programme to support its pound;2.5 billion roll-out of fibre broadband. But Mr Palmer proposed that it should go further in order to improve the chances of success for applicants to nearer the 1 in 6 chance enjoyed by a would-be Oxbridge entrant.

He said BT should take on many more apprentices than it needs and then make them available to other employers within their industry and their suppliers.

Mr Palmer, who was speaking at a skills debate marking the countdown to the WorldSkills competition in London next year, said: "It's a real challenge for us to provide enough places for young people. What I would suggest is that we need to change our view on recruiting apprentices."

BT's signal of its willingness to provide more apprenticeships than its business needs dictate is likely to be welcomed by unions, which have criticised the contribution of large employers to the number of apprenticeships available.

While companies with 500 or more employees provide 16 per cent of the total employment in the UK, they only offer 5 per cent of the apprenticeship places, according to the Trades Union Congress.

joseph.lee@tes.co.uk.

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