MORE young people will get the opportunity to learn vocational skills following reforms to apprenticeships announced by the Government.

Education and Skills Secretary Charles Clarke and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown introduced the reforms as a major boost to business and productivity.

The reforms will deliver more apprenticeship opportunities, beginning at the age of 14.

Improvements include brand-new Young Apprenticeships for 14 to 16-year-olds.

They will allow motivated pupils to spend up to two days a week in the workplace learning a trade such as engineering, auto-motive industries, business administration, logistics, and the arts and creative industries.

There will also be a pre-apprenticeship offer, based around the very popular Entry to Employment programme for young people who have potential, but are not yet ready or able to enter an apprenticeship or may be currently disengaged and disenfranchised from learning.

Apprenticeships will also be opened up to adults, by abolishing the 25-year-old age limit.

Speaking at the launch in London, Mr Clarke said: "Apprenticeships are one of the best ways we can fill our skills gaps. They provide young people and adults with 'on-the-job' training and experience, which gives them the direct skills they need.

"I am delighted that many leading businesses are committing themselves to the scheme.

"But we need more employers to get involved, which is why the Learning and Skills Council is launching a specific marketing and advertising campaign."

Mr Brown added: "Apprenticeships, which were dying a few years ago, have now already risen to 255,500 in England.

"We must work in partnership - employers, individuals and the Government - to ensure that even more businesses and young people are benefiting through this new scheme."

Bryan Sanderson, chairman of the Learning and Skills Council, said: "A recent survey by the Learning and Skills Council showed that 44 per cent of organisations who reported skills shortages said they lost business as a result.

"There is no excuse for a poorly trained workforce. Apprenticeships provide businesses with the solution they need to thrive.

"I hope many employers respond to this call. We now have a real chance to remove the skills deficit and improve productivity."