By Claire West

Skills Minister John Hayes today met apprentices at the London launch of IBM’s first apprenticeship scheme, aimed at school leavers.

Information Technology is one of the many sectors set to benefit from the Government’s expanded apprenticeships programme. An extra £250m government funding a year will be put into apprenticeships by 2014/15 compared to previous spending levels.

John Hayes said:

"This government recognises that skills training must keep up with the fast pace of technological change. That’s why the Government is not just expanding the apprenticeships programme by investing an additional £250 million, but also improving the scope and quality of apprenticeships so they deliver the more advanced learning and practical experience that firms like IBM demand.

"IBM’s new apprentices will gain invaluable skills that will help them take forward their own careers in the ICT sector. And every firm that makes this investment in its people will help ensure its future prosperity as well as that of the wider economy.

“I am determined to seed apprenticeships in every part of the country, to spread opportunity, grow the nation’s economy and produce a bigger society.”

Stephen Leonard, Chief Executive, IBM UK and Ireland said:

IBM is continually looking to develop and invest in its future leaders and the Apprenticeship Scheme is a great opportunity to engage with a new pool of talent.

“We recognise that studying for a university degree isn't for everyone. The scheme is a way for individuals who are keen to dive straight into the world of work to join a vibrant and forward thinking company whilst still working for a recognised qualification.”

Apprenticeships are at the heart of the Government's skills strategy, launched this month. By 2014-15, the government will expand the numbers of adult apprenticeships available by up to 75,000, leading to in excess of 200,000 starts a year.

The Government is working with employers, through Sector Skills Councils and other representative bodies to ensure that all apprenticeship frameworks meet the needs of the real economy. Re-shaping the apprenticeships programme so that more learners achieve Advanced Apprenticeships and above will help deliver the technician level skills that a modern, dynamic industrial economy needs.

The IBM apprenticeship scheme in the UK is aimed at school leavers, and will take students with 8 GCSEs plus two ‘A’ levels who would like to go into work rather than go to university. IBM's 15 new apprentices will receive two year's training as IT specialists and will be offered permanent employment.

IBM is being supported in its initiative by e-skills, the government Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology.