The government's new skills investment programmes targets 400,000 quality placements by 2011

The government has pledged £1bn of funding to increase apprenticeship places over the next three years.

As part of an overall skills investment programme it will increase overall places from 250,000 today to more than 400,000 by 2010/11, provided high quality employer places are available.

It said achieving these figures would deliver the challenges set by Lord Leitch in his review of skills almost 10 years early.

Funding will be targeted specifically at expanding apprenticeships for adults aged over 25. This will mean 30,000 additional such apprenticeships costing £90million over the next three years.

All apprentices for those aged over 19 will total 125,000 by 2010/11 alongside 281,000 apprenticeships for those aged 16-18.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of Ucatt, gave the plans a cautious welcome. “The construction industry is crying out for skilled workers, the skills gap is widening by the day. It is not sufficient to offer substandard courses, which only give workers a fraction of the skills they need. Apprenticeship courses need to be of high quality and ensure that workers have skills for life.”

The government said total spending on learning and skills will rise to £12.3billion a year in 2010/11 - compared to £6.5billion in 2001/02.