Retailers have helped contribute to the rocketing numbers of people taking up apprenticeships, new figures have revealed.

Apprenticeship starts topped half a million in 2011/12 rising to 520,600, an increase of 13.9% on 2010/11 and almost double the number in 2009/10, according to Department for Business Innovation & Skills data.

In the retail sector, starts were up 5.4% to 108,300, the findings showed.

Business secretary Vince Cable said: “Whenever I speak to businesses, a lack of trained workers is a frequent concern. Today’s figures mean we are starting to turn the tide. Over half a million people took up an apprenticeship last year, showing that our investment in vocational skills is paying off.”

In December, The Grocer reported that food and drink manufacturers had trebled the number of apprenticeships they had taken on – smashing an original target to double apprenticeships by the end of 2012.