The low take-up of apprenticeships is "little short of a disaster" and schools are partly to blame, the head of Ofsted will say today.
Chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw will lament the fact that the number of 16- to 18-year-olds being taken on as apprentices is as low as it was a decade ago, and say that this is partly down to schools failing to push pupils down vocational routes.
His comments coincide with a report published by the watchdog, which says the drive to create more apprenticeships has led to the quality being diluted.
"The fact that only five per cent of our youngsters go into an apprenticeship at 16 is little short of a disaster," Sir Michael will tell the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) West Midlands Education and Skills Conference.
"Too many of our schools are failing to prepare young people for the world of work. Even where they do, the careers advice on offer isn't encouraging enough youngsters into vocational routes that would serve them best.
"Too many of our further education providers have focused for too long on equipping youngsters with dubious qualifications of little economic relevance. And too many employers have not engaged with schools or organised themselves effectively to make the apprenticeship system work.
"Our report today lays bare what many have long suspected. Despite the increase in numbers, very few apprenticeships are delivering the professional, up-to-date skills in the sectors that need them most."
The government has set a target to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.
Headteachers’ leaders criticised Sir Michael, saying he is wrong to point the finger in the direction of schools.
“Blaming schools for lack of provision of information about apprenticeships will get us nowhere with this important priority,” Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said.
“Careers services have been decimated in recent years and funding removed, and it is incredibly difficult for schools to gain accurate access to full information about what is available and the quality of that provision.”