Employers have called on Chancellor Gordon Brown to improve teaching in schools rather than use business to deliver basic skills training.
The CBI, and the EEF, which represents manufacturers' interests, both see the increasing emphasis on teaching school leavers basic skills – such as reading, writing and maths – as a key reason the £2bn-a-year apprenticeship programme is performing so poorly.
Last week, the Adult Learning Inspectorate reported that the number of construction industry trainees completing the entry level apprenticeship had fallen by six points to only 18 per cent in the past year. Overall, only 28 per cent of trainees successfully complete their apprenticeship.
David Sherlock, chief inspector of adult learning, said the completion rates were "appalling". He suggested the decline in the construction industry, which had previously seen a rise in apprenticeships, could be due to more people choosing paid work over formal training.
But the CBI and the EEF see the Government's growing use of the apprenticeship scheme as an alternative way of delivering basic skills teaching as a mistake.
Richard Wainer, policy adviser at the CBI, said that companies were worried about the way basic skills were being taught.
"It's the way they are assessed and taught on the programme. It's not integrated into the scheme – it's a bolt-on. They are also assessed in a generic manner," he told the Daily Telegraph.