Ed Miliband has pledged to guarantee an apprenticeship for all 18-year-olds who meet a minimum standard, opening the door to thousands of new apprentices in the construction industry.
The promise came as the Labour leader committed to creating 100,000 new apprenticeships over five years if his party wins May’s general election.
One way Labour plans to grow apprentice numbers will be to enforce apprenticeship quotas on all firms winning major government contracts.
In a speech outlining Labour’s strategy for business, Mr Miliband promised a “revolution in vocational education”.
He said: “For too long this country has believed we can succeed with just some people having access to world-class education, training and skills.
“So our plan begins with a revolution in vocational education.”
Alongside upping the take-up of apprenticeships, Mr Miliband said Labour would introduce a “gold standard vocational baccalaureate” in schools and new technical university degrees.
“At the moment just one in 10 employers in England offers an apprenticeship,” he continued.
“There are six times fewer high quality apprenticeships than in Germany.
“We can do better and with our plan we will.
“It is time to match the aspirations of our young people with the high quality apprenticeships they deserve.
“So today I can announce under the next Labour government, if you get the grades at 18 you will be guaranteed an apprenticeship.”
Along with the requirement for firms winning government contracts to take on apprentices, those recruiting from outside the EU would be required to do the same.
If implemented, Labour’s plans could create up to 33,000 apprenticeships on HS2 alone.
Last month, government figures shows that the number of apprenticeships completed in the construction industry had fallen for the fifth consecutive year.
The overall figure of 8,030 completed apprenticeships in the construction, planning and built environment sector in 2013/14 was less than the number in 2008/09.