MICROSOFT has pledged to take on more than 2000 apprentices in Scotland over the next three years.
The computing giant said it will work with its 1500 partner companies in Scotland to recruit 2016 16 to 24-year-olds as IT apprentices by the year 2016.
The announcement means the number of apprentices it takes on each year in Scotland will more or less double.
Microsoft UK managing director Michel Van der Bel made the announcement during a meeting with First Minister Alex Salmond.
Mr Van der Bel said: "The digital technologies industry employs over 100,000 people in Scotland and is expanding fast.
"At Microsoft we want to help ensure there are skilled people coming into the workplace to secure the future for the sector.
"That's why we are announcing our commitment to create 2016 apprenticeships in Scotland by 2016 by partnering with the Scottish Government and our training providers QA and YouTrain.
"These are real jobs for young people in a vibrant, growing and exciting industry, which will help bring economic and employment opportunities."
Mr Salmond welcomed the announcement, which he said was a huge endorsement of Scotland's young people.
He said: "This is a terrific announcement both for the thousands of individual young people who will be given a fantastic career opportunity and for Scotland's Modern Apprenticeship (MA) programme.
"Over the next three years Microsoft and its partner companies will recruit 2016 young people, give them real jobs and train them so they are equipped with the skills and expertise to work in the IT industry.
"Microsoft is supporting investment in Scottish skills and in its own future in Scotland.
"Recruiting 2016 apprentices by 2016 represents a huge endorsement of Scotland's young people from a company with operations in dozens of countries."
The jobs boost comes a day after The Herald revealed the flagship Modern Apprenticeship programme had been criticised for reinforcing workplace segregation of women.
A study of women's role in the Scottish labour market, led by an equality in business expert, concluded the programme was contributing to gender-based favouritism by prioritising job creation for men.
Professor Ailsa McKay, of Glasgow Caledonian University, recommended the Scottish Government should consider quotas within the apprenticeships scheme to ensure women were properly represented in all trades and skills.
Just 33% of those taking part in the nationwide programme were women, the study found, and "patterns of participation were highly gender-segregated" – with concerns this could be a catalyst for workplace discrimination.
Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance said the Scottish Government was keen to encourage more women to work in science, engineering and technology.
She added that Modern Apprenticeships such as those being offered by Microsoft were "exactly the kind of future we want young women to aspire to".
Ms Constance said: "The Scottish Government is committed to at least 25,000 MAs in each year of this Parliament and has guaranteed a place in training or education for every 16 to 19-year-old through Opportunities for All.
"The partnership of companies like Microsoft is key to this work, which will support more young people into jobs."
Further research has found that more than 90% of apprentices were still in work six months after completing their training.