Since September 2004, teenagers have been able to sign up for sporting apprenticeships combining academic studies with a professional qualification.
Those taking part in the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence receive tutoring in leadership and coaching to give them an alternative career if they struggle to maintain a professional career. It is also designed to provide options once athletes retire from competition or have to curtail their career due to injury.
Aimed at 16 to 18-year-olds, the AASE takes around two years to complete and contains a new national vocational qualification.
As well as studying the technical, tactical, physical and psychological aspects of their chosen sport, students will look at wider issues such as lifestyle, communication, career management and health and safety.
Students are expected to be apprentices at professional clubs, full-time athletes or in the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme.
Sports already involved include rowing, football, rugby union and golf, and from September this year, pilot programmes in tennis, cricket, basketball, boxing and aquatics will run.
Skills minister Phil Hope said: "Apprenticeships give young people the chance to earn while they learn, to get excellent training and to build a sustainable career with a platform on which they can build their future.
"Employers are helped to build a professional skilled workforce, equipped with the knowledge and experience that their business needs to compete and stay ahead in today's global economy."
He said the programme would provide structured national training across different sports for the first time, in an ideal opportunity to boost Britain's chances in the London Olympics in 2012.
He added: "We need to celebrate success much more often. In 2012, I look forward to seeing all the aspiring young Olympian athletes who have been helped along the way by the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence."
Sports minister Richard Caborn was also at the launch at Twickenham rugby ground on Wednesday.