While the Foundation's Technical Fault report welcomed the introduction of T-Levels, it warned that their success hinges on overcoming a lack of promotion. It highlighted that nearly three-quarters of businesses (73%) have not seen or heard anything about T-Levels.
Meanwhile, fewer than one in five firms (18%) said that their business is already set up to, or could easily, provide work placements. Additionally one in four (25%) said their workplace is not suitable for 16- to 18-year-olds.
Funding will also be needed to ensure the courses can be taught to a high standard, the think tank said.
The plans have broad support from businesses, however, with 38% of firms saying that technical education (including apprenticeships) should be the government’s main education priority.
The report found that alternative routes into work for young people who do not go to university are difficult to navigate and often of poor quality. As a result men with Level 3 technical qualifications earn a third (32%) less per hour than male graduates.
Kathleen Henehan, research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Policymakers spend far too much time discussing graduates at the expense of the neglected majority of young people who don’t go to university, and who are badly let down by our education system.
“Britain’s continued failure to value vocational education has left non-graduates facing huge pay and career penalties. Post-16 education is ripe for reform, and the government is on the right track with new ‘T-Levels’ planned for rollout from 2020.
“However, proper funding and employer engagement with the new qualifications are crucial to making them a success. As things stand businesses are largely unaware of what T-Levels are, and too few are ready to play a role in making them work.”
The report found that the proportion of people earning degrees by their late twenties has almost trebled from 14% among those born in the late '60s, to 38% for those born in the early 1990s. But this rate has slowed recently, with much smaller increases in the numbers going to university and little progress since the mid '90s in reducing the share of young people only qualified to GCSE level or less.
Further education has been cut by 16.3% since 2010, while schools and higher education budgets have been protected.
Henehan said that corporation tax should be used to fund skills and training, calling for half of the proposed cut in corporation tax due to come into effect in April 2020 to be cancelled.
“Firms rightly often complain that Britain’s education failings hold back their competitiveness," she said. "So by putting £1 billion of the savings from cancelling half of the planned corporation cut into further education instead, government can support young workers and get businesses the technical skills they need.”