Too many youngsters are still opting for "meaningless" degrees instead of vocational courses to help plug the country's skills gap, a leading industry qualifications body has said.
Excellence, Achievement and Learning Limited, which oversees qualifications for the engineering, manufacturing and building services sectors, sounded the warning as thousands of young people were set to pick up their A-level results today.
The body is proposing a Ucas-style clearing service for apprenticeships and work placements, cross-party talks at government level and an inquiry into the Careers Service.
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Elizabeth Bonfield, EAL head of business innovation, said: "This is a grave situation which has been in the making for decades. The pursuance of low-value often meaningless university degrees is still being led by those that influence the decision making of our young people.
"Parents and educators are still leading huge numbers of able young people down the wrong path towards unemployment or dead end jobs.
"This is nothing short of a 'charge of the trite brigade' - a national tragedy."
Ms Bonfield cited a report by the Industry Apprentice Council published in January which said careers advice for school leavers was "woefully inadequate".
A survey of 600 apprentices found that fewer than one in 10 found out about their course through a teacher or careers adviser.
"Industry is still a vital component of the British economy, which has weathered the recession and is growing fast," she said.
"We need one million new skilled workers in the engineering sector alone in the next six years to cope with demand - and as it stands, that just won't happen.
"There were around 800,000 people on apprenticeships across a wide range of sectors in 2012/13 compared to nearly 2,500,000 taking university degrees - an improvement on recent years but still a woeful differential."
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