Money will go to businesses with a proven track record in offering quality apprenticeships for help them create more places

Nearly 3,000 new apprenticeship places will be created over the next two years after the government pledged £11m worth of funding to help employers.

Skills secretary John Denham and schools secretary Ed Balls made the announcement today.

Businesses which already have a proven track record in offering quality apprenticeships will share the cash to train extra apprentices over and above those they already employ. Around 60% of the funding will be targeted towards 16 to 18-year-olds. The remainder will largely support 19 to 24-year-old apprentices.

The announcement follows a pledge by ministers in last year's Apprenticeship Review to explore financial incentives to tempt larger firms to take on apprentices. The hope is that this will then benefit smaller companies in their supply chains, who could take them on at a later date. Firms which have reached an agreement with the government will offer a wide range of apprenticeship frameworks in various sectors, from construction to sport and leisure.

The government recently revealed a commitment to fund an extra 35,000 places across the public and private sectors, backed by an additional £140m of funding.

Skills secretary John Denham said: "In these tough times we are determined to do all we can to support business to prepare for the upturn and continue to invest in improving the skills of the nation's workforce.”

The news follows the launch of the National Apprenticeship Service in April, designed to deliver and fund apprenticeship places across England. It is aimed at making it easier for employers to take on apprentices, and provide support and help to both the employer and learner.