The latest figures on apprenticeships are "spectacular news" according to Charlie Mullins, boss of Pimlico Plumbers.

However, he argued that the release of figures showing that 370,000 mostly young people applied for an apprenticeship last year meant there is still a long way to go to ensure there are sufficient opportunities to meet that demand.

These figures include 41 applications for every plumbing position.

Mullins (pictured) said: “This confirms what I've know for a long time, which is that in the last five years, apprenticeships have become a socially acceptable alternative to going to university. For years this just wasn't the case and government policy actively discriminated against the idea that a vocational career was anything other than a second-class occupation.

“I can confidently declare 'mission accomplished' on phase one of my quest to bring the trades back from the point of extinction in this country.

“Now we need to sort out the supply side, and that means lowering the barriers faced by companies who have the expertise to enter the apprentice training market, but without assistance can't afford the £50k or so it costs to turn out a fully trained tradesperson over three years.

“And that means the government has got to adopt the sort of policy I have been advocating for years, and that's one where instead of paying benefits to young people to stay at home, they pay that money to businesses in return for the training.

“It's a complete win-win-win-win situation. The unemployed million 16-25s come into full employment, the tax revenue rises, firms get more skilled workers and the economy is also being primed to benefit for years to come as the skills shortage is extinguished.”