CONSTRUCTION, logistics and high-tech industries are expected to be key areas of growth for apprenticeships in Oxfordshire.

It comes as the Conservative Government proceeds with its ambitious plan to create an additional three million new apprenticeships over the next five years.

It highlighted apprenticeships as a major policy initiative in the Queen’s Speech last month, stressing the target number is in addition to the two million UK apprenticeships created in the previous parliament.

Adrian Lockwood, chairman of the Oxfordshire Skills Board, said: “The biggest area [for apprenticeships] in Oxfordshire will be construction because we’re heading into a big infrastructure phase.”

Building projects such as the £440m Westgate Shopping Centre redevelopment, which may generate up to 3,500 jobs, and residential developments in Bicester will increase demand for skilled workers.

Mr Lockwood started his working life as an electro-mechanical fitter apprentice and is now managing director of Integration Technology.

He said logistics was another area of high growth for the county.

Other sectors expected to stimulate demand for apprentices in the county include high-tech industries such as space technology, automotive and digital technology, as well as hospitality, food and retail, which are boosted by tourism.

Mr Lockwood said Oxfordshire’s 6,000-odd school leavers a year was the “richest source” for new apprentices.

He criticised the previous Coalition government for axing a loan system for apprentices aged 24 and above in 2014.

The Oxfordshire Skills Board said this was a key factor in the number of new apprenticeship in the county falling by 18 per cent year-on-year to 3,740 in the 2013-14 academic year, according to the board’s report, Oxfordshire Labour Market Information.

But Oxfordshire County Council expects new apprenticeship starts to increase by 17 per cent year-on-year to 4,360 in 2014-15.

Mr Lockwood said: “I deplore the total reduction of the adult skills budget.

“You’re going to have to look beyond young people. There are some very good older people who can retrain.”

Nigel Tipple, chief executive of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “We’ve got a large cohort of young people who are 16 to 18. Not everybody wants to do their A-levels or go to university.”

Mr Tipple, who began working as a horticultural and arboricultural apprentice, encouraged school leavers to look at gaining qualifications through an apprenticeship.

Common apprenticeships in the county include admin, IT support technicians, chefs, customer service support and nursery nurses.