The government is not doing enough to encourage higher numbers of apprenticeships for low-skilled school-leavers, peers have said.
A report from the House of Lords' economic affairs committee describes the current apprenticeship system as a "key weakness" of the UK's training regime.
It blames the government (DIUS) for Britain's poor apprenticeship take-up, saying it has evidence that many who would like to take up positions are unable to do so because of a shortage of places.
The government's failure to keep figures on the issue and the lack of a single agency having ownership of the system could be resolved by establishing a clearing system for school-leavers looking to get onto apprenticeships, similar to the Ucas system used to fill up university places.
Committee chairman Lord Wakeham said it was "vital" that Britain understand the importance of vocational training to the national economy.
"Apprenticeships offer the best solution to ensuring we have a highly skilled and appropriately trained workforce. Unfortunately, successive governments have failed to put apprenticeships where they belong, at the forefront of vocational education," he said.
"The government must now take concrete steps to tackle the longstanding problems hindering the development of apprenticeship. We wait to see what priority the new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills [DIUS] gives to apprenticeship."
Lord Wakeham added that the establishment of an apprenticeship unit, reporting directly to a cabinet minister, would help solve the problem.
A DIUS spokesperson said prior to the report's publication that a response was being prepared.