A new model for co-ordinated apprenticeships and training should be adopted by the UK, said Tony Burke, assistant general secretary at Unite the union.
Mr Burke told delegates at a conference in Manchester that the UK needs to develop a new model of apprenticeships to provide the top quality skills manufacturing is going to need for the future.
The latest eurozone employment figures show there are now 17.4 million people officially out of work and more than three million of those are under 25.
There are fears that the job crisis will only get worse as young people face a tougher battle to find work and that these individuals will not be equipped to work when the economy finally does grow.
Unite is working closely with Semta (the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing) to urge employers to take on more skilled apprentices to avoid skill shortages in the future and provide employment for young people.
Mr Burke said: “Unite believes we can learn from our German colleagues who look to prepare apprentices for the real world and don’t sell the future for short-term profit through a system of education and technical training lasting for three years.”
“We need a government to drive a coherent manufacturing strategy as the success of manufacturing and engineering is of vital importance to the future economic success of the UK,” he added.
Burke added that it is not just government but industry also that should be doing more to address the skills shortage that they now face.
The union says that the current coalition government has all the rhetoric, but in reality, is not delivering on developing the UK manufacturing base.