FIRMS have been urged to take on apprentices, by the county’s largest business organisation.

Speaking as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2013, Denise Rossiter chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: “We fully support the new style apprenticeship system as something of benefit to both employers and apprentices themselves.

“Evidence from last year’s National Apprenticeship Week is that the drive to create more apprenticeships, and to get the message out to young people, worked well.

“Essex Chambers are working closely with a number of organisations, including South Essex College, the Colchester Institute, and the National Apprenticeship Service itself, to do our bit to get the message out.

“We urge Essex businesses to get involved.”

The chamber was responding to news that a record number of apprenticeships were taken up last year in the east of England, a region that includes Essex. Among the companies that have announced increased numbers of new apprenticeships, to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week, are Ford and Barclays.

Prospects College has also just announced the setting up of 100 new apprenticeship schemes, in collaboration with a range of Essex employers.

Irene East, spokesman for Barclays Eastern Region, said: “Young people should be aware apprenticeships don't just apply to traditional areas such as engineering and construction. Many apprenticeship opportunities are now available in the financial services sector.”

National Apprenticeship Week runs until tomorrow.

Mrs Rossiter added: “The campaign throughout the week will certainly raise the profile of apprenticeships, but it doesn't stop there. The programme is ongoing throughout the year.”