Nick Boles was visiting a jobs fair at Walsall College where hundreds of unemployed youngsters were given the chance to talk with industry professional and the opportunity to sign up for their first jobs.
The event was supported by the Ladder for the Black Country - the Express & Star-led campaign to create apprenticeships.
More than 160 jobs have so far been created.
Mr Boles said: "The Ladder is a brilliant initiative. It is a real example of experts from across a community coming together to give young people an opportunity.
"A newspaper, as the heart of that community, has the ability to unite everyone and I congratulate the Express & Star for being able to do that with its partners.
"Apprenticeships are vital. When people leave school we want them to either go to university or to take up an apprenticeship - and both routes should be given equal footing.
"Those who take up an apprenticeship at level 2 will on average earn 11 per cent more than those who don't after three years. And those who complete a level 3 apprenticeship earn 16 per cent more after three years.
"We have seen apprenticeships double under this government and want to see three million created by the end of the next parliament.
"For employers it is a simple choice. I have spoken to hundreds of companies up and down the country who have taken on an apprentice - and they have never regretted it.
"It is a great way of training your own employees so you build the workforce you want.
"For young people there is no better way than working your way up the career ladder than by an apprenticeship. There are so many former apprentices who are now company chief executives.
"And it is also a route to get a degree, if that is what they want."
The Express & Star has joined with training provider PTP, the Vine Trust, and the Black Country Chamber of Commerce to urge companies to create apprenticeships and for young people to grab the opportunity of starting a career.
The initiative has been supported by local councils, notably Walsall Council.
The jobs fair was organised by Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Walsall North Douglas Hansen-Luke.
He said: "What is clear is that there is a lot of people here in Walsall who are dedicated to pull together and make this a more prosperous place and give our young people the opportunity they deserve. I would also like to thank the Ladder for the Black Country for supporting the event with the amazing work they are doing."