Ian Murray, the TUC's senior policy adviser, said: "If an employment sector sets targets which are not subsequently met, then the Government should look to some kind of compulsory approach.
"We have heard about the last chance saloon a number of times over the past 20 years."
While the TUC broadly supports the new-look apprenticeships, with a starting age of 14, Mr Murray said ministers should consider re-introducing training levies if employers fail to invest.
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, told MPs this week that the success or failure of the Government's skills strategy would depend more on employers than any other group.
Under questioning by the Commons education and skills select committee, he said: "I do think that, at the bottom of all this, there is concern about the issue of how we can ensure employers' commitment.
"Do the sector skills councils really engage with employers to make that commitment? I am reasonably confident the Learning and Skills Council is clear about its role but there is a bigger question mark about employers."
The TUC also says the junior apprenticeship pilot schemes for schoolchildren should be evaluated before any decision is made about introducing the scheme nationally from the age of 14.