A damning survey by the Industry Apprentice Council revealed that only 9% of apprentices found out about their jobs from career advisers.
It also found that 17% of youngsters were actively discouraged from pursuing an apprenticeship by teachers and careers advisers.
The IAC quizzed more than 600 apprentices across a range of industries including construction.
It found that more than 50% said their own initiative was the key to learning about apprenticeships – with more than 35% using online research.
IAC spokeswoman Julia Chippendale said: “The survey is a testimony from the generation of young people which we need to lead us to a brighter, better, more productive future.
“Their experiences are both uplifting and depressing in the extreme.
“Government, industry and agencies are working extremely hard to ensure that this country has the right flow of skilled people to create growth in the economy.
“Now we must ensure that the message is delivered to the very people that need to hear it – school pupils.”