Whether I’m having a chat with proud apprentices graduating from some of the most highly sought after programmes, or donning a hard hat to meet engineering apprentices working at a high-tech manufacturing facility, I am always bowled over by their enthusiasm, skill and confidence. One young accounting apprentice in Birmingham even offered to do my accounts for me when he qualifies. I might take him up on the offer!

While this supplement highlights the Top 100 apprenticeship employers, I am pleased to say that we have thousands more that share my passion for apprenticeships and traineeships. Big and small, private and public sector, and across the whole country, employers are supporting our commitment to deliver 3 million quality apprenticeships by 2020. Research shows that apprenticeships deliver strong economic benefits to employers, apprentices and the economy; which is why we are introducing an apprenticeship levy to boost the quantity and quality of apprenticeship training further.

To me, apprenticeships embody one simple but powerful idea: opportunity. They are an opportunity for talented young people to get paid work experience and a top class qualification at the same time. Apprenticeships offer employers the opportunity to shape and nurture the individuals who will help their business grow. And apprenticeships are an opportunity for our country to get the high tech, high level and highly demanded skills our workforce needs.

The National Apprenticeship Awards showcases the amazing work that apprentices and their employers do.  It is a celebration of the best of the best and I am pretty confident that among the nominees and winners of the awards we have a few future captains of industry, just watch this space!