Labour has accused ministers of selling young people short after new figures suggested an incentive designed to boost the number of apprenticeships had so far created less than a fifth of the forecast jobs.
Last summer ministers announced employers would receive sums of either £2,000 or £1,500 to take on a new apprentice.
Just a few months later in the November Spending Review ministers announced an extension of the scheme to the end of next month.
In total, the government set aside enough money to make payments for 100,000 new apprentices.
It did note, however, that the final number would depend on employers and could be lower.
But new data shows that by the start of last month the scheme had created just 18,670 new apprenticeships.
Labour wants ministers to use a wage subsidy to create new apprenticeships.
The party says that in effect this would mean half of a new young apprentices’ wages would be paid for by the government, saving employers more than £3,500 for every apprentice that they take on.
Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, accused the government of “trying to get away with quick fixes, which are selling young people short and failing to create the training and employment opportunities they need.
“The chancellor’s failure to secure our economy means the pandemic is wreaking havoc with the jobs market and now more than ever people need access to training and the chance to learn new skills.”
A government spokesperson said: “We have been generous with the amount allocated to apprenticeships because we know they work, and we want to make sure that employers have access to the support they need to create more. That’s why we cover 95% of the training costs of SMEs, in addition to our Plan for Jobs cash incentive for giving an apprentice a job.
“Right from the start we have been clear that the final cost of the scheme will depend on the number of apprentices hired, and these figures only take into account employers who have claimed payments so far. We expect the number to grow substantially ahead of the March deadline.”