Is 2014 the year of the apprenticeship?

Today, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) chief John Cridland called for apprenticeships to be given the same status as degrees.

He said:

We need to widen the gateways into higher-skilled work for far more people, including those already working, or those for whom a degree may not be the best option.

We need a UCAS-equivalent vocational system, with similar standing, to help raise awareness and parity of esteem for alternative routes to higher skills.

Cridland's New Year message follows government focus on development of apprenticeships this year.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills ran a consultation on improving employers' freedom when it comes to choosing apprenticeship training.

In October, David Cameron announced the introduction of a new, graded apprenticeship.

Speaking to Cambridge News yesterday, education and skills minister Matthew Hancock said: "We’ve got a lot in the pipeline to make apprenticeships even better and more accessible."

And today, defence firm BAE Systems announced it is to take on a record number of apprentices next year to meet the "largest workload for two decades" in submarine manufacturing.

But a focus on vocational training doesn't come at a cost to traditional higher education.

Degree uptake reached record highs this year, with last year's dip in demand seemingly a pause for thought, after the ratcheting up of tuition fees.

This appetite for further study and training reflects the desire - or necessity - to stay in education for longer.

Moreover, universities places on vocational or part-vocational courses continue to see growing demand as students look to maximise employment chances.

So 2014 will hopefully be a year of more education, bringing closer together the status of different kinds, and providing more information and more choice.