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Rolls-Royce has slashed about a third of the apprenticeships offered by its factory floor at its Derby base, blaming higher training costs for companies in the UK.

The programme, which has been running for four years, replaced 120 of the UK’s biggest employers in the subject, including Deloitte, BP and the Post Office. The original programme attracted 400 students a year.

Rolls-Royce, one of Britain’s biggest employers, would not say how many apprenticeships it was reducing as a result of the cuts. But the company said its apprenticeship scheme would continue to recruit top talent for its apprenticeship scheme.

More apprenticeships for EU nationals may be available. The UK government has granted an extension to the skilled worker scheme, which was to end at the end of last month, allowing employers to hire up to 2,000 European nationals in the industrial machinery sector.

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The extension, on the basis that the UK economy would continue to grow beyond Brexit day, is seen as a lifeline to businesses in the industrial sector which have been affected by higher training costs.

A spokesman for Rolls-Royce said there was now a clear labour market where there was “an excess of prospective applicants”. This increased demand for recruitment for its apprenticeship programme meant that it needed to consider whether it could attract and retain good candidates to a smaller apprenticeship programme.

Companies will have to take more responsibility for training – “a far more robust skill base” would allow companies to compete in a “global talent market”, the spokesman said.