More Bradford employers are being urged to take on apprentices as new figures reveal a sharp rise in applications locally.

New data from the National Apprenticeship Service shows online apprenticeship applications in Bradford have increased by more than a third (35 per cent) year on year, with more than 7,500 applications in the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, the number of training vacancies being advertised by local firms also increased, by 26 per cent from 730 in 2011-12 to 930 in the past year.

Sandy Needham, Bradford Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said there was growing interest in taking on apprentices among companies, including smaller firms, boosted by Bradford Council’s Apprentice Training Agency.

She said: “The trend for more young people to pursue the vocational route rather than go to university has helped raise interest in apprenticeships among employers, together with increased clarity about how to go about taking on apprentices.

“For micro-firms the Apprentice Training Agency, which carries the risk of the training and can provide experience across a number of firms in different skills where a small business cannot provide the whole range of training, has also been a big help.”

Nationally, there were 1.4 million applications for apprenticeships in the last 12 months, an increase of a third, with an average of 11 applications per vacancy. The National Apprenticeship Service said the biggest increase in vacancies posted online was in health optical retail, vehicle sales and clinical support. The most competitive job areas were live events and promotion (35 applications per vacancy), plumbing and heating (33) and the marine industry (28).

Sue Price, National Apprenticeship Service northern divisional director, said: “These figures show that the demand for apprenticeships in Yorkshire keeps growing. It is the first choice for many talented young people and more employers wanting young talent need to wake up to this fact.

“With such strong demand for apprenticeships, it is vital that we encourage more employers to take advantage of the benefits that apprenticeships bring. With dedicated support from the National Apprenticeship Service and the AGE 16-24 grant available to small and medium businesses, there really has never been a better time to recruit an apprentice.”