The number of young people offered modern apprenticeships is to increase to 30,000 over the next six years.

A total of 25,691 people started a modern apprenticeship last year - exceeding the Scottish Government target of 25,000.

First Minister Alex Salmond said the numbers would increase year by year until 2020 when the target will be 30,000 places.

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Speaking at the STUC conference in Dundee, Mr Salmond also announced that £4 million of funding is to go towards a three-year programme for Scottish Union Learning to help improve skills and lifelong learning for union members.

The First Minister said: "Our Opportunities for All guarantee means that all people between the age of 16 and 19 have a chance of employment, training or education. Sir Ian Wood's Commission on Developing our Young Workforce is producing proposals which will align our education and training systems ever closer to the work place.

"We are ensuring that the great events of 2014 - the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, the year of Homecoming - leave a human legacy as well as a physical legacy. So far, more than 1,000 young people have participated in our employment recruitment initiative and the volunteering and training scheme.

"And we are delivering 25,000 modern apprenticeships a year, up from 15,000 when we took office. This policy has been an overwhelming success. 92% of people are still in work six months after they finish their apprenticeships.

"And it's because of the success of our commitment - particularly to higher level apprenticeships - that I am announcing today that we will go further.

"We will create thousands of additional apprenticeship places by 2020 - focused on the highest level jobs and highest level schemes.

"This expansion will take our total target to 30,000 modern apprentices each year - equipping even more of our young people with the skills that they need, for the jobs of the future."

A report published last month by Audit Scotland said it is ''difficult to measure'' the long-term contribution made by modern apprenticeships.

The public spending watchdog said £75 million a year was being spent on the training scheme but there are currently no performance measures to assess the long-term benefits of apprenticeships.

It warned that measuring this was ''likely to be complex'', but said it would help determine if the scheme provides value for money, as well as allowing for funding to be better directed to the programmes that offer the most for individuals, employers and the Scottish economy.

During his speech at the STUC conference, the First Minister also said that the powers of an independent Scotland would be used to benefit female workers by promoting female representation at senior management level, strengthening employment protection and transforming childcare to enable more women to work.

Mr Salmond said: "And just as we are promoting youth employment, so we are promoting women's employment. Female participation in the labour market is now over two percentage points higher than for the UK as a whole - 65,000 women joined the workforce in the 12 months to January of this year.

"The percentage of women starting apprenticeships has risen from 27% to 42.9% since 2008/09.

"Angela Constance and Shona Robison have been proposed for promotion to the Cabinet because they are the best people to lead on policies which are crucial to Scotland's future. Their appointment means that Scotland's Cabinet has 40% female representation. For public appointments overall the figure has increased to 39%.

"This merit-based approach is the route by which we believe all boards - public and private - can achieve better representation of women. This is part of the inclusive society we will create with independence."