Karren Brady has insisted businesses must change their mindset over work experience placements by realising they are no longer about free labour.

The Conservative peer added many youngsters are 'simply not ready for work' when they leave school as they lack 'basic soft skills', such as confidence and punctuality.

But The Apprentice star and entrepreneur challenged businesses to stop complaining and 'step up' to improve the quality of the work experience they offer.

Baroness Brady's remarks came after she confirmed she supports the aim of the Unpaid Work Experience (Prohibition) Bill to ban lengthy unpaid internships.

Conservative peer Lord Holmes of Richmond's Bill seeks to make it compulsory for the national minimum wage to be paid to those people who are doing work experience with the same employer for at least four weeks.

It received an unopposed second reading and will undergo further scrutiny at a later date.

The government recognised the 'sentiments and intentions' of Lord Holmes' Bill but defended its efforts to enforce the existing law.

Lady Brady said: "It should be for the employer to tailor a programme for participants that gives them as much exposure to the realities of the labour market as possible, as well as some insights into that particular sector.

"One of the biggest challenges employers face is that school-leavers are simply not ready for work. They lack even basic soft skills like confidence, engagement, conduct and punctuality."

Lady Brady later said: "I think we need a change of mindset from those who might think of work experience programmes as something they can exploit to get something done for nothing, to a community-based approach where a business asks: 'What can my business do to give the young person the support they need to make that transition into the workplace and get on the road and to have a career?'

"So instead of complaining about the skills pipeline, employers should step up and do something about it.

"They should ask what they can do to offer more quality workplace experiences and be ambitious and creative about how they do it.

"This is no longer about free labour, as this Bill makes clear, it's about making a contribution to improving the life chances, skills and workplace readiness of a young person - as well as finding possible recruits for the future."

Lord Mitchell, a non-affiliated peer, said it is far-fetched to refer to unpaid interns as "slaves" as they are not owned by anyone and can quit whenever they choose.

But he reiterated a view he has expressed previously by telling peers: "In one respect, unpaid interns do have a comparison with modern slavery - they receive no payments for their labours."

Introducing his Bill, Lord Holmes said: "Wilberforce slammed the door on slavery in the 19th century, we had the national minimum wage legislation in the 20th century.

"How can it still be in the fifth richest economy on the planet that in the 21st century we're still asking people to give up their labour for no financial return?"

For the Government, Viscount Younger of Leckie said: "This Government recognises unpaid work experience is an issue and it is committed to stamping out this exploitation when indeed the individual is a worker for minimum wage purposes and clearly falls within the definition of that particular description."

But he added the current legislation already sets out that all workers are legally entitled to the minimum wage, something Lord Holmes had raised concerns about in terms of enforcement.