Firms have been abusing the apprenticeship system to exploit young people without giving them adequate training.
Announcing plans for a crackdown, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says that in one case a specialist provider was claiming to offer a fully-funded, year-long IT apprenticeship.
But while apprenticeships normally offer at least a day's training per week, this one included just six days of training in the whole year.
Skills minister Nick Boles is now asking the public to provide any information they may have about poor practice.
Other examples seen by the department already include providers failing to visit apprentices in the workplace, bad-mouthing employers and ignoring candidates over the age of 19 because there's less funding available.
Others are said to have given misleading information about the apprenticeship grant for employers, to have failed to pay the grants to businesses and to have failed to notify employers about why they wouldn't be eligible for government funding.
"We will leave no stone unturned when it comes to promoting apprenticeships as a route to a rewarding career. This government has made sure that apprenticeships are jobs with high quality training lasting more than a year," he says.
With university fees soaring, apprenticeships have become increasingly popular, and specialist firms have sprung up to manage programmes for employers. But concerns about unscrupulous providers mean the government is considering defining the term 'apprenticeship' in law.
As is currently the case with the term 'degree', it would be illegal to use it without permission. Training providers would have to meet certain requirements, including providing on-the-job training and a minimum of 30 hours work per week.
"If university graduates have their moment in the sun so should people who undertake apprenticeships," said Boles. "Businesses know their value, so it's high time they were recognised both by the public and in law as being equal to degrees."
David Cameron has promised to create three million more apprenticeships by 2020. However, it is still unclear whether the new National Living Wage will apply to apprentices aged 25 and over.
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