There have been many more apprenticeships among the over 25s
There has been a drop in the number of young people starting apprenticeships in England, official figures show.
The overall number of apprenticeships begun in 2008-09 rose 15% on the previous year, to 196,600.
But they fell 8.3% among 16 to 18-year-olds to 81,700, and the 68,000 started by those aged 19 to 24 was a 2% decrease on the year before.
The total was boosted by a near-quadrupling of apprenticeships among the over 25s, to 46,800.
The Tories said the figures were a "devastating blow to young people".
Shadow secretary for universities and skills, David Willetts, said: "Only yesterday, Gordon Brown promised more opportunities for school leavers, yet today we discover there has been a significant fall in the number of teenagers and young adults starting an apprenticeship.
"We must help young people through the recession, but Labour has created a lost generation."
He said a Conservative government would provide more apprenticeship opportunities for young people.
In a speech on Wednesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "If you are to equip our country for the future, you do not cut investment in science and education - you expand it.
"If you are going to prepare people for the future, you do not cut apprenticeships, as the Conservatives would do - you increase them."
A government spokeswoman said: "We're expanding the number of apprenticeships available in the public sector and we're making it easier for small and medium-sized firms to offer apprenticeships via Group Training Associations.
"But no young person should lose out. That is why all 16 and 17-year-olds have a guaranteed offer of a suitable place in learning - either in the workplace or in school or college."
Last month it was revealed that only 30 of the 1,395 apprentices on a public sector training scheme were new employees.
The vast majority already worked in the civil service.
Other figures last week also showed how the recession was hitting the young.
Statistics showed a rise in the number of teenagers classified as "Neet" - not in employment, education or training.