Purpose - This paper seeks to present the Apprenticeships Task Force's (ATF's) evaluation of the business case for recruiting and training apprentices. The focus is on whether they provide employers in the UK with a positive return on investment in key performance areas. Design/methodology/approach - The ATF asked nine members, senior executives of large and smaller companies across various sectors in the economy, to provide evidence that their apprentices add value to business performance. Their information was based on company research, including financial and other performance data comparing apprentices with non-apprentices. Findings - The case studies provide compelling evidence that apprenticeships deliver strong business benefits such as increased productivity and staff retention, reduced costs and a more diverse workforce. Other benefits include: increased profits - BT estimated they gained a higher annual net profit of over £1,300 per apprentice when compared with non-apprentices; higher quality of work - at BAE Systems apprentices fulfilled tasks correctly at a rate of 85 per cent right first time after completing their training; external recruits had a rate of 60 per cent; and career progression - over 90 per cent of line managers in British Gas's engineering operations trained as apprentices. Originality/value - The case studies offer employers without apprentices a real insight into the apprentices' enhancement of skills within an economy. They also provide a unique contribution to the body of knowledge used to assess the value of apprenticeships to employers.