Only 180 out of 12,000 applicants for Mercedes Benz’s apprenticeship scheme had the neccessary qualifications to be considered for the course.
Prime Minister David Cameron revealed the figures during a trip to the car giants’ National Apprentice Academy in Delaware Drive, Tongwell.
The visit, which marked the start of National Apprenticeship Week, saw the PM tour the facility, chat with apprentices and take part in a question and answer session.
While there, Mr Cameron outlined his vision for it to become the new norm for young people to either go to university or start an apprenticeship.
He challenged employers, educators and the Government to achieve this aspiration and expand apprenticeship opportunities for young people.
This is similar to what happens in Germany where the vast majority of school leavers go to university or into an apprenticeship.
The PM’s visit comes on the day that the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) forecast that apprenticeship completions over the next decade could contribute up to £3.4 billion a year to the economy through productivity gains by 2022.
And it follows an announcement from Barclays that as well as recruiting thousands of its own apprentices, the bank would work to promote apprenticeships to its business customers so that they create a further 10,000 new apprenticeships.
But he was also keen to point out that school leavers needed to be educated to a basic level where they were able to apply for such apprenticeships, with Maths and English being top of the agenda.
He told journalists: “I heard some shocking statistics this morning that of the more than 12,000 people who applied at Mercedes, actually only around 180 were able to do them because many people didn’t have the right qualifications in terms of Maths and English.”
Speaking about his vision for the future of apprenticeships, Mr Cameron said: “This is a great example of what we need more of in our country.
“Mercedes has a great training academy.
“It is about encouraging more young people to look at apprenticeships and recognising that this is a really first class career choice.
“We need to change the culture in the country, particularly in schools.
“There is a danger that some people have been let down by not having proper information available about the different choices that are out there.
“But I think we are putting that right as we are now seeing a massive growth in apprenticeships, a million have started over the last two and a half years. I think you are seeing more young people make that choice, but there is more to be done.”
Later this week, the Government is also due to formally respond to the Richard Review into the quality of apprenticeships.
And prior to visiting Mercedes, Mr Cameron said: “Apprenticeships are at the heart of our mission to rebuild the economy, giving young people the chance to learn a trade, to build their careers, and create a truly world-class, high-skilled workforce that can compete and thrive in the fierce global race we are in.
“There are record numbers of people taking up an apprenticeship, with a million starting one in the last few years. And, as we take forward the Richard Review, our drive to reform and strengthen apprenticeships, raising standards and making them more rigorous and responsive to the needs of employers – means that an apprenticeship is increasingly seen as a first choice career move.
“But we need to challenge ourselves to go even further, that is why I want it to be the new norm for young people to either go to university or into an apprenticeship.
“We need to look at how we can expand apprenticeship opportunities so that they are available to all young people who are ready and eager to take them up, and aspire to get ahead in life.”