A suite of basic qualifications fails to prepare students for work and is of "questionable" attraction to employers, learning providers have warned.
The Foundation Learning Tier (FLT) includes entry-level and level 1 qualifications which are taken by many Neets (those not in employment, education or training) before they go on to higher-level courses, such as apprenticeships, GCSEs or Diplomas.
FLT programmes, which include vocational learning, personal and social development and functional skills such as maths, English and ICT, were designed to offer learners increased flexibility to progress to a broader range of qualifications.
But the Association of Learning Providers (ALP) has accused the Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA) of failing to heed its concerns about the funding, structure and content of the FLT, which it says fails to prepare students for the world of work, prompting some providers to pull out.
Graham Hoyle, ALP's chief executive, said: "Foundation learning funding is distributed solely for the acquisition of qualifications for young people, to give them specific qualifications which are quite low level and questionably of interest to employers.
"We are finding that providers are starting to opt out of the programme. The funding mechanism stops providers from looking at job-level employability; an educational qualification programme is not appropriate for this group.
"It's a vicious circle. If Connexions are realising it's not job facing and not particularly well received, they will lose confidence in it as well.
"Providers are withdrawing from the programme at a time when youth unemployment is at historic levels; it's not fitting the bill. Everything we feared would happen has come to pass."
Mr Hoyle warned that people previously on the FLT's more work-focused predecessor, the e2e (Entry to Employment) scheme, found the new framework "inherently unsuitable".
The FLT was introduced as part of the Qualifications and Credit Framework, which was designed to allow learners to study for qualifications in smaller, more manageable chunks, making it easier for them to resume their study at a later date if they need to take a break from FE.
A YPLA spokesman said the FLT offers a "personalised and flexible programme of learning, based around relevant, bite-sized qualifications".
He added: "Inevitably, those learners - whether 14 or 1617 - have had a poor previous experience of schooling and learning.
"And, again for the first time, those learners with hugely different starting points and widely varied ambitions and hoped-for outcomes now have the opportunity of clear and coherent progression routes to higher- level learning, employment with training and other goals."
He said YPLA has held more than 20 workshops and briefings with learning providers to help them understand the FLT's "truly personalised" structure.
"This is not simple and not necessarily easy to fund and manage, but is the very least that disadvantaged, vulnerable, and indeed all young people deserve," he added.
- Original headline: Foundation tier turns off employers, say providers