THE latest employment numbers from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of vacancies has reached a record high – 823,000 – offering more opportunities for individuals to join the 32.15 million people now in work.

East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds said: “With more job vacancies available across the economy than ever before, there is a real opportunity for those looking for employment. There are now three million more people employed than in 2010, with nearly 400,000 fewer young people out of work since the government took office.

“I know that securing talent is key for many companies, including those in East Hampshire, and with National Apprenticeship Week coming up at the beginning of March, I hope more organisations will use the scheme to develop the workforce skills they need. Many companies still don’t appreciate that their existing staff can take up apprenticeship training as part of their current employment; a great way to build up skills while working.”

According to a spokesman for the Department of Works and Pensions, IT jobs are driving growth in the South East with the latest employment figures showing 1.65 million jobs creased across Britain in the IT and business services sector since 2010, being the main driver for growth in nine out of 11 regions over that period.

The South East has benefited from 317,000 new jobs being created in the sector, which is continuing to boom, thanks to unrelenting demand for the internet, wireless cloud technologies and mobile phones. They provide the basic foundation for almost all employers, making it easier for them to connect with their staff and customers at home and overseas.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said: “We have record-high employment levels in the South East. Since 2010 there have been 317,000 new IT jobs created in the region, and it’s easy to see why those kind of skills are in such popular demand by employers. The world’s gone digital, and we’re all having to adapt to that.

“Within my own department, we’re committed to providing a service that meets the needs of claimants in the 21st Century. That’s why Universal Credit not only ensures that work always pays but, with an online platform at its core, gives people the flexibility to look for a job and communicate with their work coach in a way that best suits them, be it from a desk or a smart phone.”

KCOM is an IT and communications provider that employs 1,600 people across the UK. Its chief information officer, Mike Davies, explained the demand for workers in the IT and business services sector, saying: “Businesses across all sectors are increasingly seeking to use technology to make their existing operations more efficient and introduce new ways of working to improve in areas such as customer experience and new product development. This drive for digital transformation is fuelling the growing demand for IT-centric skills.

“It may seem counter-intuitive, but the greater a business’ desire to provide a digital experience for customers, the greater their need for creative, innovative people becomes.”

In the Alton and Bordon area, Department of Works and Pensions adviser Hazel Prior flags up that it is the time of year when young people and parents are giving thought to the end of Year 11 and what to do next, and an apprenticeship could be the route to choose.

Ms Prior said: “If you want to learn a profession or a trade, apprenticeships are real jobs with training and you gain the qualifications required as you go.”

This year’s NHS and National Apprenticeships Week (March 5-9) will be taking place from this Monday and is supported by Health Education England.

Ms Prior added: “The NHS is one of the biggest providers of apprenticeships, and covers everything from estates, health and social care, clinical roles, housekeeping, IT, business admin and accounting. They can be based in hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and dentists so there is a wide choice and suitable for a range of levels and abilities.”

During apprenticeship week there will be events taking place across the country aimed at showcasing how apprenticeships work across all industries, sectors and job roles:

* Wednesday, March 7, at 4pm 3AAA Academy will be hosting a ‘How Apprenticeships Work’ open evening in Guildford. The event will consist of a taster session to give an idea of what being an apprentice is like, a look around the learning facilities and meet the trainers. For more

details, e-mail [email protected];

* Guildford College will be holding its apprenticeship event on Thursday, March 8, from 5.30pm-8pm, no need to book, just turn up, meet the teaching staff and discuss the way forward for you;

* Basingstoke College will host one of the biggest apprenticeship events in the South of England on Thursday, March 8, at 4.30pm. With more than 40 companies attending, this is great opportunity for young people, parents and employers to attend and find out more about how apprenticeships work.

Ms Prior added: “A wide range of employers will be at the Basingstoke College event and ready to chat about their vacancies, so if you are looking for an employer to take you on as an apprentice, dress to impress and bring your CV with you!”

* New figures show that 11,000 more people in East Hampshire are now saving more for their retirement, due to changes made to workplace pensions.

Auto-enrolment was introduced so that more workers can save for retirement, and the latest Department of Works and Pensions research shows that workplace pensions have become the “new normal”, while small businesses found a pension scheme for their workers to be “necessary” and “sensible”.

East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds said: “The Government is committed to enabling more people to save while they are working, and by introducing automatic enrolment we’re changing the way people save for retirement. Since its launch in 2012, more than nine million people are now enrolled in a workplace pension, and a large number of new savers are under the age of 30.”