News that the likes of BT and Network Rail have been inundated with applicants for their apprenticeship programmes should be welcomed.

Whether it is because of the lack of university places, or rising unemployment among young people, it is encouraging to see that the immense value of apprenticeships is being recognised.

An apprenticeship gives a person the right start to their working life and can open up a career path to every level of a business.

Apprenticeships are also a means to invest in our skills base, even in tough times. As a building company, we continue to take on apprentices because we know that unless we train new talent, Scotland will face a skills gap in the future.

However, we now find ourselves in a situation where the appetite for apprenticeships is there and growing, but the jobs are not. In the construction industry, in particular, we must not allow an investment drought to starve good firms and leave us lacking in the skilled tradesmen we will need when the upswing does come.

Andy Mallice, managing director, Rok Scotland