COMPUTER giant Microsoft has promised to take on 2016 apprentices in Scotland by the year 2016.

The US-based company said it would work with its 1500 partner firms in Scotland to recruit the IT apprentices, all aged 16-24.

Michel van der Bel, Microsoft UK managing director, made the announcement during a meeting with First Minister Alex Salmond.

Mr Van der Bel said: "The digital technologies industry employs more than 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 is 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 news.

He said: "This is a terrific announcement for the thousands of individual young people who will be given a fantastic career opportunity and for Scotland's Modern Apprenticeship programme.

"Microsoft is supporting investment in Scottish skills and in its own future in Scotland."

Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance said the news was "another sign of the enormous value of the (Scottish Government's) apprenticeship scheme to companies and individuals".

She highlighted research which showed more than 90% of these apprentices were still in work six months after completing training.