City leaders have been urged to make sure the £42.6bn HS2 high-speed rail project creates the maximum numbers of jobs.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin made the call ahead of an HS2 jobs and skills summit at Manchester Metropolitan University's School of Engineering, where he will appear today.
More than 700 graduate trainees and apprentices are already working on HS2, whose first London-Birmingham phase is due for completion in 2026, and more than 2,000 apprentices could be employed in construction-related jobs.
But the scheme, whose second phase north of Birmingham is due to be completed around 2032/33, is bitterly opposed by some councils and some residents.
McLoughlin said: "HS2 provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive growth, generate jobs, develop skills and secure our country's future prosperity. We need to squeeze every possible benefit from this vital project, leaving no stone unturned.
"This summit of the biggest cities outside of London is vital to ramp up plans to ensure we make the best use of UK skills and workers in building the high speed rail network."
The event will see HS2 Ltd chief executive Alison Munro unveil the company's plans for creating engineering jobs for students through initiatives in schools, further and higher education and a programme of apprenticeships and internships.
McLoughlin continued: "From 2017, HS2 will create 19,000 engineering and construction jobs.
“For Crossrail, 97 per cent of the contracts have been won by British-based companies and we will do everything possible so that industry, people and businesses, particularly in the great cities of the North and Midlands, are well placed to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity the new railway presents."