FIRST Minister Alex Salmond launched Scottish Apprenticeship Week with help from 100 Modern Apprentices.

Organisers promise the fourth annual event will be the biggest yet with employers, training providers, ­colleges and sector skills councils all on board.

Speaking during the visit, Mr Salmond announced that a ­total of 77,402 new Modern ­Apprenticeships have been delivered over the past three years, the majority of which for young people.

The First Minister said: "I am very pleased to see that all of our efforts continue to reap rewards, with such a strong achievement rate over the past few years.

"More than 77,000 new starts is an incredible achievement and is testament to ­employers, training providers and, above all, our enthusiastic and talented young workforce.

"This year's Scottish ­Apprenticeship Week will be an excellent opportunity to draw attention to the value that MAs could bring to ­employers, and help encourage them to make young ­people their business."

Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2014, organised by Skills Development Scotland, will see more than 120 events celebrating apprenticeships take place.

In the coming week there will be more than 120 events featuring more than 1000 companies.

Firms will be hosting week-long events, including recruitment drives, business-to-­business seminars and back-to-the-floor days for ­senior management.

Mr Salmond toured the East Kilbride Group Training ­Association facility and heard about skills development and the training of Modern ­Apprentices in Scotland.

To mark the week, Rearo, a manufacturer and supplier of laminated materials, announced it has created five new Modern Apprenticeship places in a partnership with Learndirect.

The firm has recruited three young apprentices, Rhys Todd, Scott Adams and ­Andrew McGill, to work in warehousing and retail ­departments at the company's head office in Govan.

Global technology firm Lockheed Martin, which has a branch in Inchinnan, Renfrewhsire, has also taken on a Modern Apprentice, 20-year-old Daniel Morrison.

Last week the company presented figures to the Scottish Government showing the technology skills gap in the country.

Alastair O'Brien, public services director at Lockheed Martin, said: "Strong ICT skillsets are in high demand and as an industry we need to ensure there is a high standard of expertise that can represent Scotland on a global scale."