Improving the educational standards of British youngsters is vital to controlling immigration, David Cameron has said.
The Prime Minister said immigrants could not be blamed for seeking jobs in British factories when schools and colleges were not producing students with the required skills to do the work.
He said in some plants half the work was done by migrants from Eastern Europe.
"You can go to factories in our country where half the people come from Poland, Lithuania or Latvia, Mr Cameron said.
"You can't blame them, they want to work, they see the jobs, they come over and they do them.
"But as a country what we ought to be saying is 'No, let's get our education system right so we are producing young people out of our schools and colleges who are fully capable of doing those jobs'."
The welfare system required reform so it "does not pay to be out of work" and immigration needed to be restricted, he added.
"Let's have sensible controls on immigration, particularly from outside the EU where we can cap the number of people who come," he said.
Linking education, welfare reform and immigration, he said: "Crack those three problems together and we can really get an economy that generates wealth for our people."
Speaking at Oxford's Mini plant at an event celebrating apprentices, Mr Cameron defended the Government's controversial work experience programme.
He said: "Getting people into the workplace, giving them experience of work, of timekeeping and all the things it means to have a job is a really good way to help get people started.
"It's a cruel fact but it's true that the best way to get a job is to have one already."
He added: "The danger for a country like Britain is yes, you see the economy recover, yes you see jobs coming, but you leave behind people who have not got the right qualifications from school.
"I don't want that to happen in our country."
More than 60 of the UK's leading businesses have signed up to deliver new-style apprenticeship schemes, developed in response to last November's report by entrepreneur Doug Richard, which called for higher quality training and more educational rigour to give apprenticeships "serious kudos" with both employers and employees.
The companies - including Mini owners BMW, BAE Systems, Microsoft and Barclays Bank - have signed up to be "trailblazers" for the apprenticeships.
In future, apprenticeships will last at least a year and will be based on standards designed by employers, to meet the specific needs of their industry and deliver the skills and knowledge an individual needs to be fully competent in an occupation.
Apprentices will be subjected to more thorough academic assessment - including maths and English tests - and will be graded at pass, merit or distinction level in a similar way to their contemporaries in full-time education.
At least 20% of their training will take place away from their work stations.
Downing Street said it was intended that all new apprenticeships will meet the new standards by 2017/18.
Meanwhile, vocational training schemes will be offered to young people for whom apprenticeships are not the right option.
New vocational training schemes are being pledged by Accenture, BAE Systems, Barclays, BT, Centrica, Diageo, GSK, HSBC, Kingfisher, M&S, National Grid, Tesco, Unilever and WPP and will include intensive vocational training, mentoring and on-the-job experience.
The Government's aspiration is to offer 100,000 work training opportunities over the next two years, and to encourage employers across the country to do more to help unemployed young people.
The initiative will be based on existing successful programmes run by the Prince's Trust.
Mr Cameron said: "I think apprenticeships can be a big part not just of tackling unemployment but also in making sure our recovery is for all.
"We've seen 1.5 million people start apprenticeships under this Government, I want to make sure the apprenticeships are good quality so we are announcing new rules today to make sure that happens.
"We also need to help people who don't have the necessary qualifications which is why we've got companies to commit to 100,000 training opportunities today to help more young people benefit from the economic recovery."
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said: "Cameron is once again looking to pull the wool over the eyes of the British public.
"He has finally acknowledged the damage that unrestricted Eastern European immigration has had on the prospects of British workers, especially our youngsters.
"Yet this is the same Prime Minister who supports Turkish membership of the EU and the open borders that come with it.
"The rise of Ukip may have prompted David Cameron into talking about immigration but whilst we remain in the EU, talk is all we can do."