A new government scheme will allow young people to gain a full honours degree while earning a wage and paying no fees.

The new Degree Apprenticeship qualifications will be taught in England from next September, starting in the digital and software field.

The government will pay two-thirds of the costs and fees while employers pay trainees’ wages and other costs, with companies of any size able to take part in the scheme.

It stems from government collaboration with academia and industry, said Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey.

The aim is to integrate academic learning at degree level and on-the-job practical training – “to ensure that education and training routes are providing the skills which employers need now and in the future”, said Mr Vaizey.

The employers involved include Accenture, BT, Capgemini, Ford, Fujitsu, GlaxoSmithKline, HM Revenue and Customs, Hewlett Packard, IBM, John Lewis, Lloyds Banking Group, Network Rail and Tata Consulting Services.

The academic side of the courses will be provided by universities including Aston, Exeter, Greenwich, Loughborough, Manchester Metropolitan, University College London, the University of the West of England and Winchester.

Some 150 places have already been guaranteed on the programme by the employers involved, in subject areas ranging from software design to information technology for business.

The government hopes that if the programme is successful in the digital sector, it could be extended to other industries.