A £40 million fund to ensure workers are trained to A-level standard is to be shared between the West Midlands and the North-west.
The multi-million cache comes under a pilot scheme announced by the Government yesterday.
Ministers believe the skills boost will help the region take advantage of opportunities set to emerge from the Olympics coming to Britain in 2012. The funding comes at a time of increasing concern over skills gaps in the UK workforce in the face of growing competition from China and India.
Government figures show adults in the West Midlands, along with the North-west, have among the lowest literacy levels in the country.
Announcing the funds, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said: "By 2012, two thirds of new and existing jobs will need Level Three qualifications.
"We must focus on these priority skills needs. Currently fewer than 60 per cent of electricians and plumbers have the crucial technical qualifications needed, and this figure is under 50 per cent for construction."
A Level Three qualification is equal to two A-levels. The Government wants to see more firms put employees through NVQs to gain the qualifications.
The new funds are available to small firms. Those bidding for a slice of the cash have to match funding from their own pockets.
It is expected much of the training will be carried out in the workplace.