Apprenticeships are a personal issue for me. I started as a craft engineering apprentice in 1958 with Howard & Bullough in Accrington.

Apprenticeships are a personal issue for me. I started as a craft engineering apprentice in 1958 with Howard & Bullough in Accrington. So I understand better than most the opportunities they offer people, young and old, to learn new skills and jump start their careers. And as Government Apprenticeship Ambassador it is a matter very dear to my heart.

Retailers have always offered a huge range of exciting apprenticeship opportunities - from management, to craft skills, to sales positions. And the retail industry has a good record of training and development and bringing people on. It’s not for no reason that Alan Sugar often talks about sales and retail skills being so important when he selects his own apprentices in the TV shows. I am currently in the process of convincing the BBC to produce a programme called ‘The Real Apprentice’ and I am eagerly awaiting my meeting with director-general Tony Hall in the next few weeks.

But this year, in National Apprenticeship Week 2014, retail apprentices have stepped up a gear. David Cameron’s announcement on Wednesday that a new Trailblazers project will be put in place is a massive opportunity to build on the success retailers already have in apprenticeship programmes.

While the Trailblazer projects have been set up by the Government, they are led by employers and involve both large and small businesses and professional bodies. They are focused on the development of new apprenticeship standards and assessment approaches.

The new retail Trailblazer will be led by a wide range of retailers, including The Co-operative Group, Ryman, John Lewis plc, Tesco Stores Ltd, Asda, B&Q and Boots Uk Ltd. The industry is included in the second wave of Trailblazer projects as an acknowledgement of your importance as an employer, and I look forward to seeing how the work progresses over the coming months.

National Apprenticeship Week is focusing on increasing awareness, understanding and demand for apprenticeships, as well as celebrating the achievements of apprentices. This week has celebrated apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

It has been great to get out and see businesses, politicians, young people and the media talking about this vitally important week over the last few days. I hope that within retail, and across the wider economy, apprenticeships continue to gain the positive publicity they rightly deserve, and I look forward to taking the time to meet some of the new retail apprentices in the future as the Trailblazers project moves forwards.

Gordon Birtwistle is the Government Apprenticeship Ambassador