We've seen the TV show, but what's it like being a modern day apprentice? MAXINE GORDON introduces the five candidates...

YOU'RE hired! They're the two magic words the candidates on TV's The Apprentice want to hear at the end of their rigorous selection process.

And it's no different for the hundreds of real-life apprentices who combine time in the workplace with training opportunities up and down the country.

But not all apprentices are school leavers looking for their first step on the career ladder.

Some young people are choosing apprenticeships over going to university, avoiding large student debts and attracted by the notion of "earning while you learn".

And some workers already established in their careers are also taking up apprenticeships, hoping to pick up new skills and increase their employability and boost their earning power.

Apprenticeships are big news again, after being culled in the Thatcher years in favour of the Youth Training Scheme. The Government is committed to creating three million apprenticeship starts by 2020, to plug our skills gap. It introduced a new charge last April, forcing employers with an annual wage bill of £3 million to contribute 0.5 per cent of their payroll towards an apprenticeship levy. The money can be claimed back to fund training for new or existing employees. However, latest figures show a drop in the number of new apprenticeships since the levy was introduced. Figures released by the government last week showed there were just 27,000 apprenticeship starts last November, 40 percent fewer than in 2016.

Despite this dip, York is bucking the trend. York College is the largest apprenticeship provider in the city and offers 54 different levels of apprenticeships and has 665 apprentices currently enrolled.

Martin Kennedy, employer engagement manager at York College says: "We are proud that we are bucking the trend with apprenticeships. Nationwide, the numbers are going down, but we have seen an increase in enrolments in last year."

Martin said the college had worked hard over the past two years to spread the word about apprenticeships to local employers as well as young people, their parents, and in workplaces too. That publicity drive will continue next week, as the college celebrates National Apprenticeship Week with a series of events for employers and employees, including an Employer Showcase at the college on Wednesday from 6pm to 8pm.

So who are York's real life apprentices?

They are a real mix of candidates, says Martin. The college offers a wide range of training programmes covering everything from construction, hospitality and hairdressing to business administration, accountancy and IT. There are many levels of apprenticeships too, from Level 2, which is equivalent to GCSEs, through to 6,7 and 8, equivalent to degree level and above.

Sam Batters, 20, joinery apprentice at York Minster

"I didn't do very well at school and it took me a while to find the direction I wanted to go in," says Sam who eventually completed a two-year joinery course at York College after bailing out of two earlier courses – one in electronic engineering and another in 3D design craft. In joinery, he found his passion and secured a bench joinery apprenticeship with York Minster – where he'd actually done work experience while at Millthorpe School.

The post requires four days in the Minster stone yard, working on everything from roof repairs to hanging up coat hooks, with one long 12-hour day in college learning practical skills and on-site requirements, such as how to follow health and safety rules. "I really enjoy it. I like the mix at the Minster; I am learning a wide range of joinery whereas if I'd gone to a home builders like Persimmon, I'd probably just be hanging doors and fixing skirting boards."

Jodie Sabin, 41, business administration apprentice at Saville’s Audio Visual

Jodie is one of a growing band of mature people taking up apprenticeships. She has worked at Saville’s Audio Visual for 12 years but wanted to get qualifications to back up the skills she already used in her job. She has almost completed a two-year apprenticeship through her company – gaining an NVQ Level 3 in Business Administration. She says: “The apprenticeship has certainly improved my skill set, I am learning new things all the time, which in turn is really improving my confidence. My apprenticeship works well alongside my role and I think it’s important for people to realise that you can take up an apprenticeship at any age.”

Faye Rich, 23, dental apprenticeship at Thorpe Dental Group

After leaving Huntington School, Faye began accountancy training. Then she had a change of heart. "I missed the public contact. I had originally wanted to get into health care so when I saw the apprenticeship offered I went for it. I studied for my qualification – a Level 3 Diploma in Dental Nursing, which you need in order to practice – at night class. It took two years and I just qualified last month. I'm glad I have done it – it doesn't really matter what age you are. Some people think apprenticeships are just for school leavers, but not everybody knows what they want to do when they leave school."

Kailum Browne, 18, advanced apprenticeship in laboratory science technicians, Fera

The former Joseph Rowntree School pupil studied for AS Levels in maths, further maths, engineering and physics at York College before switching to an apprenticeship. "I had an interest in science but was never an exams sort of kid. I prefer to apply my knowledge in a workplace environment." He has now embarked on a two year science apprenticeship scheme with Fera at Sand Hutton, working in plant diagnostics. "We are helping farmers maintain the quality of what they provide. We survey plant disease and help map that disease and look at what can be done in the future." Kailum likes the idea that he is earning while he is learning and will come out with a BTEC in applied science after his two-year apprenticeship.

Chris Moore, 32, chef at York District Hospital

Chris has been working as a chef at the hospital for 16 years. He is part of a team of six who make up to 2,000 meals every day for patients in York and further afield to Bridlington and Selby. Meals are batch cooked and cover the likes of cottage pies and casseroles. So Chris might not have much use in his current post for the latest skills he is picking up on his Level 3 NVQ in professional cookery. "It's a lot different to the cooking we do in the hospital. I am learning to make pastries, croissants, and soufflés, " he says. "It's more for my own benefit and job satisfaction. It's good to learn more."

Back in the boardroom...

Here's what a local employer thinks about modern apprenticeships:

10 Squared is based in Pocklington and designs and manufactures kiosks, ticket machines, gaming terminals and digital signage equipment.

Office manager Sarah Pearson said: "We have recently taken on two more apprentices after successfully recruiting our first apprentice four years ago. He is now fully trained and is proving an invaluable asset to the business both now and hopefully for a long time to come.

"The apprenticeship programme offers businesses the opportunity to invest in young people, as well as enhance skills and productivity within the workplace. It also allows you to train people in the skills pertinent to your own business requirements."

Find out more:

Martin Kennedy says that York College works with nearly 300 local employers to future-proof workforces and ensure training needs are met. It offers a helping hand to guide companies through the recent apprenticeship levy legislation.

Martin said: "There are real benefits for employers who take on apprentices, they can boost their business productivity, develop and expand the skills of new and existing employees and increase their profit margins."

Apprenticeship facts in York

* They earn on average between £105 and £350 per week

* Get a minimum of 12 months paid employment and holiday pay

* Learn job-specific skills

* Are able to apply to university once they’ve completed the apprenticeship, or

in some cases, work up the levels to get a degree or masters degree through apprenticeship training

* Get to graduate! Apprentices in York are invited to attend a graduation ceremony

Find out more at: yorkcollege.ac.uk/course-types/199-apprenticeships.html

York City Council has a useful downloadable guide on apprenticeships at: york.gov.uk/downloads/file/14016/york_apprenticeship_guide