Labour has said it plans to make large companies train a new apprentice for each skilled worker they hire from outside the EU.
The policy would create up to 125,000 high quality apprenticeships over the next parliament, the party said.
Labour leader Ed Miliband also pledged to increase the minimum wage to help with the cost of living.
Earlier on Saturday, he set out a plan to tackle what he calls the UK’s “cost of living crisis”.
The apprenticeship scheme would affect foreign nationals brought in under Tier 2 of the points-based immigration system – those offered a skilled job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker.
Labour said its research had found that many recently created apprenticeships have been for low-quality courses, and demanded that the number of high-quality apprenticeships be doubled.
Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, Mr Miliband said: “I want a high wage British economy, not a low wage brutish economy, and we’ve got plans to make that happen to drive up skills.
“So we’re going to say to any firm who wants to bring in a foreign worker that they also have to train up someone who’s a local worker, training up the next generation.
“We think that can create up to 125,000 new apprenticeships over the course of five years. And that is a massive boost in skills for our young people and that is really important.”
The focus should be on those privileged few right at the top, and that’s not people earning £50,000 or £60,000 a year”
Mr Miliband also revealed Labour would increase fines for employers who deliberately break minimum wage laws from £5,000 to a maximum of £50,000.
He told a crowd in Brighton that the national minimum wage was “one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government” but it was falling behind price rises under the coalition government. He pledged to strengthen it.
If the national minimum wage had risen in line with the cost of living it would be 45p an hour higher than the current level, which is due to rise next month from £6.19 to £6.31, he explained.
‘Cruel and unfair’
Earlier Mr Miliband said the housing benefit cut – affecting social tenants in England, Scotland and Wales deemed to have spare bedrooms – would be scrapped.
hadow communities and local government secretary Hilary Benn told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the housing benefit change was a “cruel and unfair policy” which “undermined families and communities” and did not work because there were no smaller properties for people to move in to.
Meanwhile, senior party figure Rachel Reeves, deputy to shadow chancellor Ed Balls, said Labour was not intending to raise taxes for people on middle incomes.
She told The Daily Telegraph: “The focus should be on those privileged few right at the top, and that’s not people earning £50,000 or £60,000 a year,” she said.
“If you’re a single-earner family in the South East on (that income), you don’t feel particularly rich, and you’d be aggrieved that people earning between £150,000 and £1 million are getting a tax cut.”
BBC © 2013