A Labour government would set down rules that could see more than 30,000 apprenticeships offered on the project to build High Speed 2 (HS2).
Party leader Ed Miliband said today that companies winning major government contracts would be required to create opportunities for young people.
He set out Labour’s Plan for Prosperity, which includes proposals designed to create up to 100,000 apprenticeships over the next five years.
Analysis of the policy suggests 33,000 training places could be created on the £50bn HS2 scheme to speed connections between London and the North, according to Labour.
Miliband said: “At the moment just one in 10 employers in England offers an apprenticeship. There are six times fewer high quality apprenticeships than in Germany.
“Nothing more symbolises the current government’s failing plan than seeing the tax gap – between what should be paid and the revenue received – widening, while the number of apprenticeships available for young people is falling.
“We can do better. And with our plan we will.”
Miliband said this plan would include measures to ensure “every firm that wins a major government contract [is] required to deliver apprenticeships. Every firm recruiting from outside the EU required to do the same.”
He added: “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.”
Labour said it would give employers more control over skills funding and standards, asking in return that they increase the number of high quality apprenticeships in their sectors and supply chains.
The party also intends to give companies the powers they need to boost apprenticeships, such as the ability to set levies or licences to practice.
Engineers called for a focus on making sure apprenticeships were meaningful.
Institution of Civil Engineers director general Nick Baveystock, said: “Practical action which incentivises more employers to offer apprenticeships can only help, and we welcome greater involvement from employers in setting up schemes tailored to the needs of business.
“But the focus must be on the quality not just quantity of apprenticeships. Young men and women should also have the opportunity to gain professional qualifications at the end of their apprenticeships, setting them up for careers in their chosen fields.
“So the real challenge, for whoever wins on 7 May, is in creating schemes with continued employment guaranteed on successful completion, rather than just offering a period in training. The UK can only thrive if it has a vibrant, technically and intellectually proficient workforce and the next government must place this at the heart of their economic growth policies.”