MODERN Apprenticeships are a national success story - latest figures show a 60 per cent increase on last year. They include 117,400 young people, 39 per cent of young people in work-based training.
In Wales, where 9,000 trainees are honing their skills and getting qualified in this way, Modern Apprenticeships are proving exceptionally popular. Twice as many young people per head of population are choosing this option than in England.
They include deep-sea fishermen in Milford Haven and apprentices recruited to tackle skills shortages head on at an aircraft engine testing company in South Wales. Both industries are increasingly vital sectors in the local economy .
The West Wales Training and Enterprise Council's Sea Fishing Modern Apprenticeship Programme, led by Pembrokeshire College, is offered in conjunction with several other partners, including the Welsh Sea Fishing Industry Group Training Association, the Local Port Authority, the Marine Safety Agency and the British Marine Industry Federation.
Training is delivered in locally in Milford Haven during periods of bad weather, and via multimedia and video conferencing to remote venues around the Welsh coast.
This training is in addition to the trainees' jobs on the fishing vessels, trawling the deep waters of the Irish Sea and Atlantic ocean. Pembrokeshire College and the Engineering and Marine Training Authority are looking at linking this project into the new Government-backed University For Industry initiative for a technology skills learning alternative to full-time courses. The success of the original project is leading to its extension overseas, with video conferencing links to Southern Ireland, Brittany and other regions being developed.
West Wales TEC and Pembrokeshire College are also exploring further developments in the fields of boat building, merchant navy qualifications and fish processing.
At Nantgarw outside Cardiff, GE Aircraft Engine Services Wales, one of South Wales' leading companies, decided to tackle a national shortage of highly skilled aircraft engineers by starting up Modern Apprenticeship recruitment with the help of Mid Glamorgan TEC.
The company, which overhauls, maintains and tests aircraft engines, recruited 40 apprentices last year and is taking on a further 20.
The company say the scheme has proved an ideal way of countering local skills shortages.
Alan Williams, chief executive of Mid Glamorgan Training Council, said the legacy of lack of recruitment in the engineering industry in the Seventies and Eighties was now affecting labour market dynamics.