APPRENTICESHIPS are more than a leg up for youngsters – they’re also good for business.

That’s one of the key messages that the National Apprenticeship Service wants to get across this week.

Now in its seventh year, National Apprenticeship Week will see a series of events across Hampshire highlighting their value.

And the message appears to be getting through, with the number of online apprenticeship applications across Hampshire increasing by 40 per cent last year, to 20,460, compared to 14,580 in 2011/12.

Employers posted 16,916 vacancies online for the South East in 2012/13 – a 40 per cent jump from the previous year.

But with each online vacancy in Hampshire attracting an average of 7 applications, the Government is urging more employers to consider how an apprentice could benefit their business.

Sally Thompson, of Tanglewood Equestrian Centre, Colden Common, started taking on apprentices two years ago.

Ms Thompson said: “It’s great now. All the things that would previously take up my time and cost me money are now covered and funded by the apprenticeship scheme.

“We work very well with the college and are always aware of what’s being covered in the classroom so when can embed that once back in the stable.”

She has recently been joined by 19-year-old Sparsholt College student, Claire Brewer, 19, as an equine apprentice.

For Claire, from Alresford, an average day starts at 8am and includes care of the horses, training them, general yard duties, and some teaching. She spends one day a week at college, where she can tailor her studies to her work, leading to a British Horse Society qualification.

She said: “Unlike university, you get work-based experience which is invaluable.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue a career working with animals but it’s only as I’ve got older that I’ve been more drawn to horses. I am still very much undecided as to which particular route to take so for the moment am enjoying seeing first-hand the many different professions working in the sector.

“We have horse physios and veterinary nurses all visit the stable and this is helping me decide where my future lies.”

Suzanne Grant, assistant principal commercial at Sparsholt and Andover College, said: “For too long apprenticeships have been solely associated with training for school leavers. They are so much more than training for young adults, and we urge employers to consider how they, their businesses and employees could also benefit.”