The Government has promised young people a "universal offer" of financial support for education and training, whether or not they decide to go to university.
Speaking last week, John Denham, the Universities and Skills Secretary, said: "We want apprenticeships and other accredited vocational courses to be seen alongside university as a great way to get on and secure the best jobs, the best careers and the best life chances. It is an important step towards ensuring those who don't choose to go to university get a similar level of support to those who do."
Mr Denham said young people up to 25 would be entitled to free training to the equivalent of a Level 3 qualification, even if they are being trained at work. Those interested in an apprenticeship would be eligible for an "apprenticeship credit" to pay for training, and to encourage employers to take on apprentices.
The news came in the same week that the Conservatives announced plans to expand the provision of apprenticeships for applicants of all ages, remove red tape for further education colleges, and link the new 14-19 diploma qualification to apprenticeships and foundation degrees.
"We will work to build parity of esteem between apprenticeships and academic routes," the Conservatives' policy paper says.
A spokesperson for Universities UK said it would be monitoring the progress of proposals and is already "consulting with all political parties on the potential benefits of apprenticeships as entry to higher education".
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, welcomed the "all-party consensus that we need further growth" in apprenticeships.