The UK will have more apprentices than ever before, the Government has claimed, after it was revealed in Wednesday's budget that 50,000 extra places are to be created.
Chancellor George Osborne announced that the Government will spend pound;180 million on 40,000 apprenticeships for young unemployed people and 10,000 higher apprenticeships - level 4 qualifications worth more than A-levels - over the next four years to meet the UK's skills shortage.
This is in addition to 75,000 extra apprenticeship places which were announced last year, and skills minister John Hayes told The TES that this would take the overall total to more than 430,000, a new record.
"It is a budget for growth and a budget for skills," he said. "I think we can be really pleased. The chancellor has once again recognised the potential of apprenticeships and heard the call from employers to grow the programme.
"There will be more apprenticeships than we have ever seen. The highest level we have previously had in this country was 400,000."
Mr Osborne also announced that the Government's work experience programme is to be expanded from 20,000 places to 100,000 over the next two years.
Despite concerns that employers could be put off by the cost of hiring apprentices, Mr Hayes insisted the Government would not foot the bill for their wages in what he described as "virtual apprenticeships". These will continue to be paid for by employers, with the Government meeting training costs.
"They are real jobs; that will continue," he said.
Association of Colleges chief executive Martin Doel said: "Our members will be concerned whether places will be available for these new apprentices in companies, particularly as the Government expects them to employ the apprentice and cover 50 per cent of the training costs."
Mr Hayes said he remained "pretty confident" that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills would meet its target of recruiting 50,000 extra apprentices this year.
The announcement was welcomed by Paul Warner, director of employment and skills for the Association of Learning Providers.
"The Government has definitely been on the right track in ensuring that apprentices are in a proper job with a decent wage," he said.
Mr Doel said he was "disappointed" that there was no news on the fund to replace the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in the Budget.
Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said: "This budget is a missed opportunity and shows how out of touch this Tory-led Government is with the lives of young people.
"With youth unemployment at a record high, the measures announced today are woefully inadequate. The announcement on apprenticeships will help just 12,500 young people each year out of nearly 1 million youth unemployed."