Ministers have commissioned an independent review of vocational education for 14 to 19-year-olds.
Education Secretary Michael Gove announced yesterday that Professor Alison Wolf, an academic from King's College London who specialises in the relationship between education and the labour market, will lead the inquiry.
She will look at ways to improve the organisation of 14-19 vocational education, its responsiveness to changes in employment and whether it is helping young people to progress to work or further and higher education.
Professor Wolf, who will report back next year, has already expressed strong views on the subject.
In 2008, she was reported as saying that the then Labour government should model vocational education on its higher education policy: "Spend more and back off."
"If they took that model for vocational education and let employers and industry genuinely drive it, we would do so much better," she said.
She was also critical of Labour's decision to make the education or training compulsory to the age of 18. Money would be better spent on ensuring pupils had the maths and English skills they needed by the age of 16, rather than forcing them to attend post-GCSE courses they knew to be "worthless", she said.
Last year, Professor Wolf published a book arguing further education and skills training had been subject to too much central planning, control and targets and constant reorganisation.
She has also criticised the "alphabet soup" of vocational qualifications and governments' failure to understand that the skills needed in the labour market are increasingly "academic" ones like language and mathematics.
The Department for Education said the Wolf review would not examine the individual vocational qualifications.
Mary Bousted, Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary, said: "An inquiry into vocational education may be a good thing. The problem is where does it fit within ministers' call for a return to academic subjects?"