APPRENTICESHIPS should be considered as good a career option as going to university, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said on a visit to Dorset.

The Liberal Democrat leader met apprentices at Cobham and said Britain’s “barely disguised snobbery” towards apprenticeships had held the country back.

He said more than 1.8million apprenticeships had been created during the current Parliament, more than under any other government in living memory.

“I get the impression we’re also turning a page on what was a barely disguised snobbery that an occupational qualification wasn’t as good as a higher education qualification,” he said.

“I’ve always felt that attitude has held the country back.

“You should put these two routes – vocational and higher education – on the same pedestal and I think we’re doing that.

“We’re slowly getting there.”

Mr Clegg was given a tour of the Cobham site at Brook Road, Wimborne before talking to people who have successfully completed apprenticeships.

He was told that many schools did not properly promote apprenticeships as a career option and instead were focused solely on pupils applying to go to university.

Cobham apprenticeships take four years to complete, with employees earning a wage and working alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills and work towards nationally recognised qualifications.

Apprentices from Cobham won the Brathay Apprentice Challenge in 2012 and were runners-up in 2013 and were presented with their certificates by Mr Clegg.

Mr Clegg said: “Young people working alongside older folk with more experience will learn more from just doing the job rather than learning about it from a book.

“We’ve taken this older idea and we are now putting it into these 21st century sites like Cobham. It’s a wonderful merge of the old and new.”