Parents must be educated about the value of vocational qualifications, says the Business and Technology Education Council, after a survey of employers, parents and young people.
Gallup, which conducted the research, found that employers wanted young people to know how to read and write, and to be able to work in teams and communicate. This was seen as more important than academic qualifications. Parents, however, rated A-levels higher than vocational exams.
John Tate, the development director of BTEC, said: "We need to overcome the prejudices against vocational qualifications because, at the end of the day, GNVQs are more likely to provide employers with what they want. And a lot of young people would be better suited to GNVQs than academic qualifications. "
The survey of 430 firms showed that one in two felt their profitability would be affected by a shortage of skilled youngsters; nearly half said they were prepared to look abroad to fill vacancies; a third said they had taken unusual steps to recruit school-leavers including paying staff to find suitable candidates, offering engineering courses to 11-year-olds and psychometric testing to discover latent skills.
More than 400 parents and 15 to 18-year-olds also took part in the survey. Half the parents were prejudiced against vocational exams despite the low unemployment rate of those with such qualifications. Most of the youngsters questioned also valued academic over vocational qualifications.
Although three-quarters of the parents had heard of GNVQs, half of those did not know what they stood for. However, 80 per cent of the sample wanted to know more about them.
BTEC has a 70 per cent share in the GNVQ market, with 70 per cent of students going on to further and higher education in 1994. A quarter gained jobs and only 5 per cent remained unemployed.