British industry is being shortchanged by careers officers who are guiding youngsters away from apprenticeships and jobs in manufacturing, it has been claimed.

EEF West Midlands has called for an investigation into the standards of careers services in schools following criticism by members of the House of Lords.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs, in its report Apprenticeship - a key route to skill, said many of those who could benefit from apprenticeships are failed by "wholly inadequate or non-existent" careers advice in schools. The report also accused careers advisers of being either ignorant or indifferent to apprenticeship opportunities.

The committee also found that schools rarely informed young people about the opportunities offered by apprenticeships.

None of the apprentices that the select committee talked to had learned about apprenticeships at school.

Some only found out about apprenticeships a year after leaving.

The report further accuses successive governments of providing "poor leadership" on apprenticeships, with millions of young people having missed vital chances to improve their skills as a result.

The former Department for Education & Skills was accused of failing to build connections between key partners involved in apprenticeships.

EEF said it was astonished to find that neither DFES nor the LSC collected data on the number of young people interested in, or actively seeking apprenticeships.

There was also no data available on employer demand for apprenticeships, nor was there any central or local record of businesses that employ apprentices.

Amongst other recommendations, the committee called on the Government to make sure apprentices are promoted in schools; establish a new unit to take responsibility for apprenticeships, reporting to a cabinet minister.

It also demanded an improvement in careers advice in schools so, by the age of 14, all school pupils should be aware of the opportunities provided by apprenticeships.

EEF West Midlands train 80 per cent of all engineering apprentices in the Birmingham and Solihull area through its Technology Centre at Tyseley.

However, this only amounts to 80 new apprentices each year.

Bill Nicholls, director of education and training development at EEF West Midlands, said: "This is a damning report on the status of apprenticeships in the UK.

"As we have suspected for some time, it suggests apprenticeships are treated as a second class route to employment, not least amongst career advisers."