EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLD Oliver Lowe wanted to get into the job market and become financially independent, so he didn't have to rely on his parents.

Concerned about the amount of debt linked to university, Oliver chose to switch track after a year of A-Levels, and a careers advisor alerted him to the option of an apprenticeship.

Now the teenager is completing an information technology apprenticeship with Satmo, on Bradford Business Park, which develops bespoke tracking systems for commercial vehicle operations.

Oliver is the company’s first apprentice. His role is to identify and diagnose faults on GPS tracking units returned by customers, and he is also learning how to build a website. The apprenticeship started in March last year and Oliver is completing his qualification in the workplace.

He is studying for an NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Information Technology User Skills with learndirect. A tutor visits Satmo once a month to keep him on track and he submits work online. “I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship and at the end I hope to get a full-time job at Satmo or a good reference that will help me get a job elsewhere. It’s been a good decision,” says Oliver.

He is among a growing number of young people who have chosen an apprenticeship over university. In providing the opportunity to develop job skills and gain a qualification, they offer the potential for secure permanent employment, including professional careers.

Kate Dallas-Wood, chief executive of Bradford Apprenticeship Training Agency, said: “There is an emerging trend of modern day apprentices wanting to break into professional roles including the business, legal, medical and creative industries sectors. Apprenticeships are no longer solely linked to traditional trades.

"The young people we see are keen to get their career on track, they are thinking twice about getting into debt with university course fees and want to get into the workplace. Others prefer learning on the job rather than in a classroom.”

Based in Little Germany, Bradford ATA was set up by Bradford Council with Bradford College to employ apprentices on behalf of businesses. Free advice is provided to small and medium-sized enterprises wanting to find out about recruiting an apprentice at E3 Bradford, supported by the Council and Bradford Chamber of Commerce.

Both organisations also support young people aged 16 to 24, providing information on apprenticeship vacancies in the district in a variety of roles, from pharmacy to telemarketing.

Bradford ATA and E3 Bradford are funded through the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Apprenticeship Programme, which runs across 10 local authority areas. Bradford ATA and E3 Bradford worked with 200 businesses between July 2013 and December 2014, with 197 young people starting an apprenticeship during the same time period. The most popular apprenticeships in Bradford are accountancy, business administration, hospitality, information technology and manufacturing.

Employers welcome the support provided. Justin Pickles, Information Technology Director at Satmo, said: “An apprenticeship is an easy and cost-effective way to assess someone for full-time work. It can be an expensive mistake to take on the wrong person. We’ve already had the benefit. Oliver’s work has released me to concentrate on finding new business. Oliver is flexible and keen. He does whatever is needed to help the business improve.”

Another apprentice with designs on a career is Molly Bloodworth, 18, who started a social media and digital marketing apprenticeship at Tech and Print Solutions, Keighley, in April last year. The information technology company, which sells computing equipment and offers advice, has taken on three apprentices.

“I realised I lacked experience and qualifications to get a job outright and needed further training," says Molly. "For the first fortnight I found it really hard work getting used to the hours, but it’s been far more interesting than school or college, and I get paid. I love it here. I’m surprised at how much the company values my skills.”

She added: “I’m learning about different digital marketing tools. Eventually, I want to become a digital marketing expert.”

Carl Kowalik, Sales Director at Tech and Print Solutions, said: “As a young business, we need affordable talent to help us expand quickly. Apprenticeships are a good way to vet potential employees. The wages reflect the fact that apprentices are trainees, but we reward people who want to learn and stay with us.

“Recruitment was made easy by Bradford ATA, which helped advertise the posts and source the successful candidates. Apprentices have a particular advantage in a small business; they can see how the company works across the board, not just one department.

“The apprentices are all confident, friendly and receptive and have benefited us massively already. They're helping to streamline what we do. As a business, you have nothing to lose taking on apprentices as long as you find people willing to learn."

* For more about Bradford ATA call (01274) 925255. For more about E3 Bradford call (01274) 230042. Follow @e3Bradford

For more about apprenticeship vacancies visit apprenticeship-hubs.co.uk.