The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) provides funding for skills training for further education in England.
The organisation supports more than 1,000 colleges, private training organisations, and employers with £3.7 billion of funding each year. It also runs the National Apprenticeship Service.
To mark this year's National Apprenticeship Week, our Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford has been looking at the state of apprenticeships - and how competitive it can be to get onto one.
Following on from the theme, ITV Meridian presenter Fred Dinenage, spoke to Sue Husband from the SFA about the new levy employers will have to pay towards the cost of apprenticeships, and about whether it's time to simplify the system for young people who want to do apprenticeships.
The Government intends to create three million apprenticeships within the next four years. But how many of them will be at the higher end of the scale - offering top quality skills and qualifications?
Currently, only a tiny percentage - are available with the best companies - and competition to win places can be tougher than getting into Oxford or Cambridge
So our Social Affairs Correspondent - Christine Alsford - has been looking at what needs to be done to create more opportunities
Go to university and study for three years- or get out into the real world and get paid as an apprentice? That's the choice for young people these days as apprenticeships soar in popularity, and the costs of a degree keep rising. For apprentices at EDF Energy's nuclear power stations, the first two years of study will be at the HMS Sultan naval base in Gosport. But with hundreds of applications for just sixty posts each year, competition is tough. David Johns reports.
There will be the usual scramble for places at university. But, increasingly, many young people are considering an apprenticeship instead of higher education. The latest research shows that two out of five 15 to 19 year olds have thought about some sort of paid training scheme - and most students don't think it would harm their long-term earning potential if they don't go to university. Richard Slee reports.
Many teenagers will be preparing to leave school or college in the coming weeks. Some will head off to university, others will go on gap years - but many will start work.
Apprenticeships continue to grow in popularity.
Mel Bloor has been to a company in Andover which is looking to recruit 90 apprentices this year alone.
Interviewees: College leaver Chloe Livingstone, school leaver Liam Fowler, Graduate Apprentice Benjamin Sarvesvaran and Crescens George from Be Wiser.
Last year more than 30,000 in our region began life as an apprentice. With rising tuition fees, work placements are now being seen as a genuine alternative to getting a degree. Andy Dickenson reports.
Leaving school or college is a daunting prospect for some students, particularly as youth unemployment is rising. A careers fair was inundated with students wanting to find out about jobs apprenticeships and further education. Tom Savvides reports from Detling, near Maidstone.
Business Secretary Vince Cable has visited Sussex Downs College in Eastbourne to launch a new campaign aiming to help young people into work.
The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills was accompanied by MP for Eastbourne Stephen Lloyd to officially launch The Big Conversation - which aims to encourage employers in the town to create new apprenticeship vacancies.
The College, in partnership with the Eastbourne Chamber and other local organisations, is spearheading the initiative, which has been devised to help create meaningful employment opportunities for youngpeople and adults, and respond to the needs of local businesses in a difficult economic climate.
The Big Conversation will also demonstrate how the structure of an apprenticeship provides the ideal start for someone seeking their first step into employment or retraining in a new role.
Unemployment is rising in the South East despite falling in the rest of the country.
Six thousand more people were out of work in the three months leading to September, than during the last quarter.
The Government says the road ahead will be hard but overall in the region figures for the young unemployed are improving, slowly but steadily.
Sarah Saunders went along to a new mechanics workshop in Paddock Wood staffed by apprentices to ask whether green shoots for the economy are starting with the young.
She spoke to apprentice George Burman, charity director Richard Mayhew and businesswoman Nikki King.