Only about 1/4 of apprenticeships are going to under-19s despite the age group accounting for more than half of all applications.
Research commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) found that since 2010, 42%of apprenticeship starts have been over the age of 25 rather than young people entering work.
The LGA is calling on the government to carry out urgent reform of the system – claiming government apprenticeship schemes are failing to address youth unemployment and are being abused by employers.
Under the coalition government, 2 million apprenticeship places were created and the Conservative government announced a further three million over the next five years. But the LGA found that employers are using schemes to train their own low-skilled, adult workforce rather than offer opportunities to young people.
They want to see the creation of "local apprenticeship hubs", involving councils, Job Centre Plus and trade unions, to take control of apprenticeship grants for employers and better tailor apprenticeships to meet local need. They also want local areas to have more say over the funding of careers advice and for apprenticeships to offer Level 3 (A-level standard) training rather than the current Level 2 minimum.