Employers are rejecting national vocational qualifications, with over half saying they are "not interested" in them, according to a survey by the Sussex University-based Institute of Employment Studies.
Nearly a quarter of employers have still not even heard of NVQs, although they have been available for five years. This actually represents an improvement on figures from the last IES survey in 1993, when more than a third of employers were unaware of them.
But more worrying for the Government, which has backed NVQs as the means of filling the skills gap, is the fact that 52 per cent of employers are not interested in NVQs, compared with 35 per cent in 1993.
Report author Mark Spilsbury said: "It is apparent that while there has been success in raising awareness of NVQs, there has been relatively little success in transferring this increased awareness into interest and, from there, increased use."
The IES report, Employers' Use of the NVQ System, found that there was considerable variation in NVQ use, with 47 per cent of large employers (more than 500 workers) using NVQs compared with just 7 per cent of small employers (less than 50).
But even those employers who do promote NVQs rarely use them in a major way. Overall, the proportion of employees working towards a relevant NVQ in the typical company is less than 10 per cent.
There is a ray of hope for employees because, by gaining an NVQ, one out of six gain promotion and one out of four gain a pay rise. But, broadly, Mr Spilsbury said the report findings suggest that "on the face of it there has been little progress in the introduction of NVQs" and that the process seems to have "stalled".
The IES recommended that "an educational" rather than "a highlighting" campaign is now required because understanding remains low and mere awareness-raising is not leading to greater use of NVQs.