THE Scottish Government is "well on course" to meeting its apprenticeship target, with more than 19,000 people starting on training schemes in the first nine months of the year.

New figures show that in the first three quarters of 2013-14, a total of 19,124 people began a modern apprenticeship (MA) - 76.5% of the Government's target of having 25,000 apprentices taken on each year.

Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance said the figures from the training body Skills Development Scotland were "encouraging".

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But she urged more employers to take on apprentices and young people, saying: "In 2014 I hope to see more employers making young people their business.

"Taking on a keen, enthusiastic young person isn't just the right thing to do, it's good for business.

"I want more employers to not just help the younger generation fulfil their potential, but harness their skills for Scotland's wider economic benefit."

Of those who started a modern apprenticeship in the first three quarters of the year, 11,643 (61%) were male and 7481 (39%) were female.

Just over half (52%) of those who began a training place were aged 16 to 19, while the sector with the largest number of apprentices starting was construction and the related industries, with 17% of new recruits.