Many businesses would rather employ migrant workers than take on an apprentice because of the poor "employability" of prospective trainees leaving school, according to a new report.
Research by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) found that firms believe they will struggle to recruit quality apprentices in the coming years.
Education cuts and poor careers advice were said to be to blame, with firms believing the situation will get worse now that the school-leaving age has risen to 18.
IMI chief executive Steve Nash said: "With funding for education set to be squeezed, employers and training providers in the motor industry are voicing fears that they will lose out in the race for the best learners. Schools will seek to keep as many 'paying' students in sixth form as possible.
"They need only to ration information about alternatives and the already small talent pool available to fill apprenticeship vacancies will be drained."
Most of 75 training centres contacted by the IMI said the employability of prospective trainees from schools was poor, with many saying they would rather employ migrant workers.