The Government has urged employers to help create 100,000 more apprentices by the year 2014, pressing firms to say "you're hired" to people eager to be trained.
Business Secretary Vince Cable marked the start of Apprenticeship Week by underlining the Government's commitment to increase the budget for apprenticeships to over £1,400 million in 2011-12.
He urged employers to follow the lead of firms such as British Airways, British Gas, BT, Superdrug, Jaguar Land Rover and Proctor and Gamble, which are offering thousands of places to budding apprentices.
Dr Cable said that investment in training the next generation of highly skilled workers would be key to sustainable economic growth, and called for an end to "outdated values" that have seen vocational learning branded a poor relation to academic study.
"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."
Dr Cable launched Apprenticeship Week at BT's head office in London and will later visit apprentices at HMS Sultan, a training base in Gosport, Portsmouth, to meet apprentices in a range of industries, including engineering for the Royal Navy and Network Rail.
Skills Minister John Hayes announced that greater recognition and status will be given to those who successfully complete their apprenticeships, and made it clear that apprentices can progress to higher stages of learning through the apprenticeships programme, including to university.
"Our ultimate goal remains to see apprentices achieve equivalent esteem and status with university graduates, so that a place on an apprenticeship scheme is as valued as one at a university," he said.