WEEKS after signing a lucrative nuclear energy deal, Renfrew-based Doosan Babcock has revealed it could take on as many as 160 new apprentices in Scotland over the next five years.

The Korean-owned group is planning to hire some 500 apprentices across the UK, with many destined for its large facilities in central Scotland and in Tipton, near Birmingham.

Doosan Babcock currently employs more than 900 people across Scotland, 760 of whom are based in its Renfrew headquarters.

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Martyn Fletcher, director of Doosan Babcock's asset support group and leader of the company's apprenticeship programme, said: "Apprenticeships are such an important tool in addressing the skills gap currently facing the country.

"If we as an industry are going to help bridge the gap between education and employment, we must first ensure that the opportunities we provide result in highly skilled young people ready to take on the opportunities the industry will provide."

Last month Doosan Babcock was appointed to help French energy giant EDF extend the life of Scotland's two nuclear power stations and also five in England.

The £70 million a year deal with the utility covers the Hunterston B power station in Ayrshire and the Torness plant in East Lothian.

Some 1000 people are expected to be employed on the contract at any one time.

Over the past five years, Doosan Babcock has trained more than 400 apprentices.

The company said that in 2013 more than 3000 people applied for 100 of its apprentice places.