Under the Government's strategy, apprenticeship numbers have fallen by a quarter, costs have doubled and nearly a third of providers fell below minimum standards, national auditors found.
A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) gives little room for optimism over the Government's strategy, which brought in the widely criticised Apprenticeship Levy.
The Government's target of three million could be missed and funding could run dry, the NAO warned.
'The number of apprenticeships starts in 2017/18 was 26% lower than the number in 2015/16. As a result, government is very unlikely to reach its targets of 3 million new starts by March 2020,' the NAO said.
'We also found that the average cost of training an apprentice under a new standard is around double what was originally expected. This means that when the programme converts entirely to the new standards the overall cost of the programme is likely to increase.'
The NAO suggested the Government could limit the number of new starts or reduce the amount of funding for certain apprenticeships to keep costs down, but added 'the available measures are likely to damage confidence in the programme'.
It did state the programme 'is evolving towards better quality apprenticeships which is clearly a good thing' but the government has not demonstrated the impact on productivity, 'which is one of its key aims'.
And the evidence of the quality of training improving is mixed, with Ofsted recently rating a greater proportion of providers as 'outstanding' or 'good' but in 2016/17 it found 27% of providers 'fell below minimum standards in terms of the proportion of learners who successfully achieve their apprenticeships'.
Last year Transport Network revealed that just £108m of the roughly £2bn raised between May 2017 and February 2018 has been paid out for training under the Apprenticeship Levy.