New "vocational A levels" are not vocational enough, the council which awards most of them warned this week.
Advanced General National Vocational Qualifications are gaining ground as a route into higher education, but extra work-related elements need to be bolted on to make them more attractive to employers, according to the Business and Technology Education Council.
Though GNVQ-holders should possess many of the transferable skills employers say they value, courses are seen as too broad, and lacking in specialist training.
BTEC's annual report, published this week, reveals that 70 per cent of students with Advanced GNVQs - deemed broadly equivalent to two A levels - continued in full-time education last year, with 52 per cent going on to degree courses.
But an "unacceptably high" proportion had failed to fulfil their job aspirations. Of those who wanted to find a job, 17 per cent remained unemployed.
The report says a poor level of awareness of GNVQs among employers may be partly to blame. Sir Michael Lickiss, BTEC's chairman, said this week that more vocational elements were probably needed on GNVQ courses if they were to gain acceptance.
The more job-specific NVQs, designed to provide specialist training, should also be broadened with the addition of a new "Part 1 NVQ", as proposed in the Competitiveness White Paper, which would give NVQ students more knowledge and understanding of their occupational area.
"The national vocational framework at present has two extremes - at the one end it is very job-focussed and at the other it is extremely broad and is providing a substantial amount of underpinning knowledge. What we need is more knowledge and understanding in the job-specific NVQs and more specialist options in GNVQs," Sir Michael said.
BTEC says it is encouraged by progress in the development of GNVQs, but is worried that proposals to replace BTEC Higher National Diplomas with higher level GNVQs will be too soon.
HNDs have proved popular with students, higher education and employers, but a consultation paper will soon call for their incorporation into the GNVQ framework.
Sir Michael said: "I would hope that more energy will be devoted to the development of NVQs and GNVQs before we examine what needs to be done at the higher levels."