The Duke of York spoke passionately about the need to provide young people with skills when he officially launched the Gloucester Citizen and Gloucestershire Echo's Apprenticeship Awards 2014.
He met some of the 100 students during a tour of Gloucestershire College's Launchpad vocational centre in Tewkesbury and soon put them at ease with his relaxed manner.
He impressed business leaders at the event with his knowledge of apprenticeships and during a speech called for skilled young people to be given greater recognition.
"We want an enterprising nation and I don't come across many young people not prepared to work and actually go out and do something when they leave school," said the Duke.
"Education, training and skills are all part of the same tree trunk. But as you progress through that education system, the pathways you can choose should open up like the boughs and then branches of the tree."
But it should not close the route to either further or higher education.
"This is about the connectivity of the real world into the education world," said the Duke.
He called for greater recognition for the achievements of apprentices.
"We recognise people who come out of university with a degree ceremony, I think we should do something similar for apprenticeships and recognise them in a way that is really valuable to young people."
He described the Gloucestershire Apprenticeship Awards as "really outstanding".
"It has become clear to me how important local media is. They know what is the right thing to do. I would like to commend the local media for what they are doing in encouraging businesses to flourish."
He urged businesses to "think a little bit harder" about succession planning and about young people.
"If we do not give young people the experience, how are they supposed to learn? How are they supposed to get into the workplace," he asked.
The Duke met catering, hair and beauty, engineering, and construction students. Engineering student Jordan Courtney, 16, from Tewkesbury, said: "The Duke was really interested. It was a great experience to meet him."
The Duke also chatted with Chris Pockett, of high-tech Wotton-under-engineers Renishaw, which has 111 apprentices. He asked how companies could overcome past prejudices against apprenticeships.
"I told him I think it is a cultural issue," said Mr Pockett. "You have to engage in schools and colleges and you will gradually break it down."
Matthew Burgess, principal of Gloucestershire College, joint title sponsors of the Apprenticeship Awards with the Warranty Group, said the Duke's visit was "fantastic" for the college, apprentices and business.
For full details of the Apprenticeship Awards, visit gloucestercitizen.co.uk/apprenticeship.