Apprenticeships have lost prestige due to a false hierarchy between academic and technical training, the employment minister has said.
The perception exists that the schemes are only for manual jobs like construction, Stephen Farry said. The minister announced a major review of apprenticeships and youth training in Northern Ireland.
"It is clear to me that apprenticeships have lost some of their earlier status," he said.
Mr Farry told the assembly he wanted to provide employers with an appropriately skilled workforce and ensure young people had the opportunity to gain skills, experience and employment.
Around 7,400 people are taking part in apprenticeships or the Training for Success scheme.
The minister said: "Often other pathways of education are held in greater esteem. A false hierarchy between academic and vocational or technical training and education has been created. This can lead to some rigidity in terms of pathways to progression.
"I want the review to examine how the apprenticeship pathway to a career can be seen as equal or better to the academic route to enjoy high levels of esteem, returning it to the prestige it once enjoyed - valued by employers, society and the apprentice."
The review will report its findings this autumn and will be advised by an expert panel including employers, education and skills providers.
Mr Farry said businesses increasingly required higher apprentices reaching the level of BA degree and beyond. "The review of youth training will ensure that the new training offer for young people is sufficiently broad and flexible to enable them to progress to an apprenticeship or into employment," he said.
The review will consider how to engage with employers on the training curriculum and how to improve young people`s employability through measures like work placements.