Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said training standards and qualifications should be tailored around the needs of employers.
Employers will be able to develop their own apprenticeship qualifications to tackle skills shortages under plans announced by the Government.
Ministers said their plans would radically change the delivery of apprenticeships as well as raise standards and overhaul qualifications.
Mr Clegg said: "Most employers say that apprentices improve productivity. So it's vital that apprenticeships are tailored around what employers want, allowing them to design their own qualifications and choose their own training provider, rather than getting a one-size-fits-all programme that's bad for apprentices and bad for employers."
Every apprenticeship should be targeted at a skilled job, involving "substantial" new learning, said the Government.
John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "The FSB has called for a clear definition of an apprenticeship and for businesses to have a hand in developing the content of apprenticeships, so it is good news that the Government has committed to look at this.
"An apprenticeship should not simply be in-work training, but a quality way to start a meaningful career, embedding skills, and delivering clear benefits for the business and well as the apprentice."
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "We would urge the Government to monitor closely both the standard of these new qualifications as they are developed, and whether companies try to use public money for training their own employees. And we will wait with bated breath for employers to deliver the goods."
Neil Carberry, the CBI's director of education and skills, said: "This could be a watershed moment for apprenticeships. Businesses need to be in the driving seat - controlling course design and content so every apprentice meets rigorous industry standards and gets training that helps them build a great career.
"Aligning apprenticeships more effectively with business needs will boost growth, create jobs and help the UK compete globally. Strengthening courses will make them more attractive to young people."