Outsourcer Capgemini UK is more than doubling its intake of IT apprentices in 2012 to just over 200, and plans a further increase in 2013.

The company says there has been a "surge of applications" from school leavers "seeking an economically attractive alternative to university".

Capgemini recruited 98 apprentices in 2011 but only 26 in 2010. It plans to recruit a total of 230 in 2013.

Capgemini UK employs around 8,000 people in the UK and its clients include HM Revenue & Customs, the Metropolitan Police, Rolls-Royce, Tesco and Unilever.

Those joining Capgemini's Higher Apprentice Programme have a fully funded opportunity to gain a degree, free from tuition fees, with day release for college attendance as part of their apprenticeship.

Frances Duffy, HR director at Capgemini Application Services, said, "Apprentices are now vital in widening the pool of IT talent, addressing skills shortages, and helping to ensure that the UK can continue to compete successfully in world markets."

She said Capgemini's longstanding graduate recruitment programme was also continuing to expand.

Capgemini is seeking apprentices to work in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Swansea, Telford and other locations across the UK.

The programme comprises two schemes, including a 12-month Advanced Apprenticeship programme for those aged 16-plus with good GCSEs, and a five-year Higher Apprenticeship programme for people aged 18-plus with good A-levels.

Both programmes include formal instruction, day-release study and on-the-job training working alongside experienced employees on client projects.

Capgemini pays £10,000 a year pro-rata for the first three months during which apprentices take a fast-track IT fundamentals course. On successful completion of this course the salary package then rises to £14,500 a year for Advanced Apprentices and £16,000 a year for Higher Apprentices.

Earlier this year outsourcers and consultants Accenture, Atos, Capgemini, CSC, Fujitsu, HP, Logica, Siemens and Steria formed the "Charter Group" to support the hiring of more apprentices. Supported by e-skills UK, the British Computer Society and Business in the Community, the nine firms agreed standards for entry qualifications, pay scales, training requirements, timescales, and routes to professionally qualified status.