LOCAL MP Stephen Doughty has praised the benefits of apprenticeships at the start of National Apprenticeship Week, March 3-7.

Cardiff South and Penarth MP Stephen Doughty praised the Labour Welsh Government's ongoing commitment to apprenticeships –helping thousands of people into training and benefiting businesses across Wales.

As part of the 2013-14 Budget Agreement (which covers financial years 2013-14 and 2014-15), the Welsh Government agreed to provide an additional investment of £40 million into the Welsh Apprenticeship programme.

"Apprenticeships offer a clear path to a successful career for many thousands of young people, and I'm delighted that Labour's Welsh Government has shown its commitment to supporting apprentices and businesses," said Mr Doughty.

"This is in stark contrast to the Tory/Lib-Dem government in Westminster, which is leaving far too many young people behind, by taking an indifferent attitude towards them and their future."

Welsh apprenticeship completion rates have risen from 54 per cent in 2006/07 (the first year data was collected) to 85 per cent in 2011/12. In England the apprenticeship completion rate in 2011/12 was 73.8 per cent - down more than one per cent on the previous year, having risen every year under Labour until 2010.

According to Welsh Government research, more than 80 per cent of businesses say that apprentices have made their workplace more productive.

"Apprenticeships are of enormous benefit, not only for each apprentice but also for the businesses training them," added Mr Doughty.

"They can fill a skills gap and allow businesses the opportunity to tailor their workforce around their specific needs. They also offer real returns to businesses through increased productivity and competitiveness."

ACT - Wales' largest apprenticeships provider – has its headquarters in the Cardiff South and Penarth constituency, and there are many more opportunities locally, and Stephen is encouraging people of all ages, and local businesses, to get involved in Apprenticeship Week.

"Apprentices have the opportunity to learn on the job, build up knowledge and skills, gain qualifications and earn money all at the same time," added Stephen.

"They also gain excellent prospects for the future because they have the knowledge and experience that employers really value."