Keeping the royal wheels turning

When it comes to promoting the advantages of an apprenticeship in engineering, what story could be more inspiring than that of the British royal family?

Launching a programme of scholarships backed by car manufacturer Land Rover - at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, naturally - Zara Phillips recounted the inspiring engineering-based tale of her grandmother, the Queen.

In 1945, the 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth (as she was then) insisted on joining the Auxiliary Territorial Services as a mechanical engineer, learning to drive and maintain vehicle engines as her contribution to the war effort.

All this experience paid off: just seven years later she was installed as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon.

And with the help of a #163;9,000 scholarship for choosing an apprenticeship or higher education course in engineering, who knows where today's bright young things could end up?

Dizzy with all the spin

If only our apprenticeships were more like Germany's and Austria's, the cry goes up from Whitehall to Washington DC, then our youth unemployment problems would be over.

But is all this positive chat about apprenticeships just public relations? No, really - is it literally all PR?

It's not just that a PR company in the North West of England is launching the first social media apprenticeship this summer. But the UK government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has also recruited its own PR apprentices. Except, unlike most apprentices, they have a good chance of being unemployed in 18 months' time. "We may be able to find them a job at the end of the programme but there is no guarantee," the department's chief spinner said.

The PR apprenticeship was, of course, first devised by education giant Pearson, which earlier this year closed its apprenticeship division, putting 500 jobs at risk.

"Apprenticeships are at the heart of our mission to rebuild the economy," the UK's prime minister, David Cameron, said. It's going well, then.

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