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18 May 2015, 10:30
An extra 500 modern apprenticeships are to be funded over the next year following a £3.8 million investment, the First Minister has announced.
The funding will also be used to create more opportunities for young people still at school through work-based foundation apprenticeships.
The aim is to provide industry recognised qualifications and first hand insight into the world of work for senior secondary pupils, according to the Scottish Government.
Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement as she met with female apprentice mechanics at GTG Training owned by Arnold Clark, which has seen 160 apprentices starting this year - of which 31 are female.
She said: "It's vitally important that all of our young people in Scotland - no matter their background - have the opportunities available to get on in life.
"Apprenticeships not only offer our young people better job prospects - they also have a positive impact on businesses and industry, bringing value to employers and our economy.
"We have already seen youth unemployment reach its lowest level in seven years and with further investment in our young workforce - like these 500 apprenticeships - we can hope to see that continue to improve.''
The 500 places - announced to mark the start of Scottish Apprenticeship Week - are the first step to expanding Government agency Skills Development Scotland's current apprentice programme from 25,000 to 30,000 by 2020.
Ms Sturgeon also said she wants to make sure the opportunities are ``open to everyone''.
She added: ``Traditionally, some sectors have been dominated by men and women have felt that there are barriers to them entering.
``As we continue the expansion of our successful apprenticeship programmes we need to make sure that more young women are aware of the tremendous opportunities that an apprenticeship provides.
``I want our young women - as well as our young men - to be inspired and supported to achieve whatever they want in life.''