HR jobs market increases for the first time since FebruaryThe website launched by the government and backed by Lord Alan Sugar has filled a reporter 1,185 vacancies out of 18,000 available. Critics are calling it a failure, with the conservative branding it an “expensive gimmick”.

Lord Sugar launched the National Apprenticeship Matching Service earlier this year, with TV ads and the support of the government which made Sugar a peer and government enterprise tsar.

The scheme cost a reported £2.85m in advertising in 2008-2009, with additional efforts planned to fund an extra 35,000 apprenticeships to help tackle the recession.

Substantial increases have been reported, however. In June, only 616 apprenticeship vacancies had been filled out out of 17,788 advertised, and the National Apprenticeship Service said that the numbers of vacancies would take time as more students reach the end of their courses.

More adults over the age of 25 are now considering apprenticeships, with the amounts of over 25 taking up the scheme increasing fourfold.

Shadow higher education spokesman David Willetts said: “Apprenticeships are an excellent way to help the young victims of Labour’s recession, but the government is failing to provide the real help needed.

“Instead of celebrity gimmicks like this, the government should be funding apprenticeship places and making it easier for businesses to run the schemes.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “The purpose of the Apprenticeship Vacancies system is to allow employers to advertise vacancies for free and potential apprentices anywhere in the country to see what is available and apply online.

“The system is successfully attracting employers and potential apprentices.

“The real measure of the success of apprenticeships is that 225,000 people started one in 2007-08 compared to only 65,000 in 1996-97; and successful completion rates have risen to 64%.”