APPRENTICES in Oxfordshire have backed a new Government scheme that aims to boost the number of young people on work training schemes.

Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron launched the initiative at the Mini Plant Oxford that will see 100,000 work training opportunities created for young people nationally over the next two years.

He was joined by 600 apprentices and employers from UK businesses for the announcement – which local apprentices say will give people a way of learning a skill without racking up large student debts.

BMW, which runs the Cowley plant, is one of 60 companies that has already signed up to develop the new apprenticeship scheme.

Natalie Murray, 24, from Abingdon, who is doing a four-year maintenance technician apprenticeship with Mini, backed the project.

She said: “It is needed. When I was at school, you were expected to go to university.

“With the high university fees, they have got the system in place where you don’t have to pay it back straight away, but you are still in debt.

“I wanted to stay local and I wanted a job.

“University is fantastic, a lot of my friends went, but people need to have options, otherwise you end up doing something you don’t want to do.”

Luke Pearce, 20, from Marston, who is doing a four-year engineering technician apprenticeship with Mini, said: “I have always thought of apprenticeships as being the best way to get the work experience to get the qualifications. And you earn money as well, which is always nice.”

Of the scheme, he said: “I think it is a good idea. I think people need to be more aware and understand about apprenticeships.

“I think apprenticeships are the way forward.”

The new scheme will last for at least a year and officials say applicants will undergo tougher independent and academic assessment.

Announcing the initiative the Prime Minister said that the UK should put a stop to immigrants taking jobs in British factories and concentrate on educating young people so they have the skills to be employed.

He said: “You can go to factories in our country where half the people come from Poland, Lithuania or Latvia.

“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’.”

He said that the welfare system required reform so it “does not pay to be out of work” and immigration needed to be restricted.

Mr Cameron said: “Let’s have sensible controls on immigration, particularly from outside the EU where we can cap the number of people who come.”

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.”

Mr Cameron added: “If you want an apprenticeship, we’re going to make sure you do the best apprenticeship in the world. The reforms we’re announcing today will put employers in the driving seat and ensure we deliver rigorous training that supports you and our economy for years to come.”

Mr Cameron, who studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, also hit out at “snobbery” aimed at certain degree courses such as music studies.

He said: “What’s happened with degrees is, because we are asking students to make a bigger contribution in terms of fees and paying them back over their lives, I think students are getting more fussy about what it is they are putting themselves in for.”

The new apprenticeships could start by the end of 2014.

Frank Bachmann, managing director of Mini Plant Oxford, said: “As a major employer of apprentices, BMW Group is supporting this important skills initiative.”