By Max Clarke

Technology giant Microsoft plans to create 1,000 apprentice opportunities in London over the next three years, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced today. The Mayor joined Business Secretary Vince Cable to launch National Apprenticeship Week in the City and called on the capital's big businesses to take on apprentices and help boost the economy.

Microsoft’s commitment to increase the number of apprentices throughout their supply chain is a major boost to the Mayor’s apprenticeship drive, which aims to deliver 20,000 new opportunities in the capital by the end of the current academic year. This will support young jobseekers, especially young jobseekers, and help to keep London’s businesses competitive. Latest figures show that London is on track to meet this target, with around 9,000 positions created - up almost 30 per cent on the same period last year.

There was further good news for London today as Virgin Media confirmed it will be offering nearly 90 apprenticeships in 2011 and global law firm Norton Rose announced it will also make apprenticeships part of its recruitment policy. The Mayor is particularly keen to see more apprentices in companies like these and in other areas where they are traditionally underrepresented, including financial and business services, and the cultural and creative sectors.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said:

"Unemployment is a social and personal disaster which eats away at self-confidence making people less employable. It is a waste of talent, a waste of hope and is hugely expensive for society. Apprenticeships can make all the difference to an eager job seeker's prospects. Time in the right workplace, with the right boss, can be worth months of training, teaching discipline, boosting self- belief and setting young people up for life.

"I applaud the companies that have announced their commitment to apprenticeships. London's businesses need to redouble their efforts to save what could otherwise become a wasted generation. They can make the difference by creating these crucial openings and at the same time build a skilled workforce tailored to the needs of the business."

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“I want to reinforce the message to business and young people that apprenticeships are a first-class way to start a career. That is why my department has pledged to work to create some 75,000 additional adult places than those promised by the previous government.

“Some of the most prestigious companies in England — large and small, public and private — employ apprentices and benefit from doing so. More than 30% of Rolls-Royce apprentices have progressed to senior management roles within the company. And 80% of those who employ apprentices agree that they make the workplace more productive.

“I’m calling on more businesses to follow this lead.”

Stephen Uden, Head of Skills & Economic Affairs, Microsoft Ltd:

“We know from experience with our Britain Works programme that apprenticeships give people a tremendous advantage, not only in terms of helping them get the job that they want, but also in terms of future earning potential. With the issue of unemployment affecting more and more of us, apprenticeships represent a direct route into business that secures important skills for employers and apprentices. London is the engine room of the UK economy and over the next three years Microsoft intends to deliver 1,000 apprenticeships in the capital through our network of partners.

“This effort forms part of Microsoft’s Britain Works programme, launched in 2009, which is designed to help 500,000 people back into work by 2012.”

Sir Michael Rake, BT chairman, said:

“Apprenticeships are undoubtedly good for BT’s business and play a key role in ensuring that we maintain and develop a highly skilled workforce. More importantly, for young people, they’re a great way to transform their raw enthusiasm into valuable skills that that will serve them well wherever their careers take them.”