This week marks the launch of the first Apprentice Week which recognises the achievements of apprentices and employers alike. Apprenticeships have been brought into the spotlight recently by the Government's proposal to increase the number of apprentices in the UK to 500,000 by 2020. Jadie McGee, 19, and Michaela Pocock, 21, are hairdressing apprentices at Cross Street Salon in Barnstaple and have both developed their knowledge and skills through continually applying their learning to a working situation. Jadie in particular has seen her confidence grow in the salon environment, "I was working at Cross Street Salon on Saturdays while I was in full time education and I realised how much I enjoyed and learned from the practical side of the job." She receives on going support from her placement officer at North Devon College, as well as from the salon team leader Claire Palmer. Claire has encouraged Jadie's development as she was promoted to head junior in November. Jadie said: "Being head junior gives me more responsibility and I know my confidence will keep on improving. Doing an apprenticeship means I get to do the practical work that I enjoy the most and every day is different so I'm always learning."The 19 first year motor vehicle apprentices at North Devon College are also aware of how much their training develops their workplace value. They train on a block release basis where they attend intense weeks of college based tuition. One learner said: "If I'd known how good it would be I'd have started earlier." North Devon College offers apprenticeship frameworks in a wide variety of other areas from customer services to plumbing. Both trainee and employer are supported throughout, ensuring business needs are fully met, resulting in a competent and fully efficient employee. Stephen Slee who owns local painting and decorating business, Stephen Slee Ltd, has recently employed another apprentice after recognising and reaping the benefits of the vocational training programme. He says: "There is an investment in time but with the right training the apprentices become an asset to the company." His previous apprentice now works with him permanently and is a highly valued team member.A new scheme is in place to encourage employers and employees to enrol on an apprentice programme. Anyone employing an apprentice aged 16 or 17 who will complete and achieve by March 2009, could have an opportunity to receive \u00A3250, plus \u00A3250 for the trainee. The scheme depends on eligibility, so inquire for more details on this and other schemes that may be beneficial to you and your business.To find out more about the apprenticeships North Devon College offers or any other training, please contact the college on (01271) 338225 or visit www.ndevon.ac.uk.