A survey of parents of 11-18-year-olds commissioned by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) revealed that 62% have not heard of them and only 7% feel they know a lot about them.
Lack of awareness is greatest among parents from lower income households and lower socio-economic groups, where four in five (76% and 77% respectively) said they have never heard of the qualification.
However, once T-levels were explained to parents, many liked the sound of the proposed new programmes.
Half (50%) thought T-levels could develop the same status and value as A-levels, just over half (55%) said they could be better than existing technical or vocational study programmes, and over two-thirds (67%) said they could provide young people with the skills needed for the workplace.
T-levels are new post-16 technical education programmes which ministers hope will become the technical equivalent to A-levels. They are intended to provide a mix of technical knowledge and practical skills in a chosen industry or occupation and include a work placement of at least 45 days.
But with just two years until the first T-levels are rolled out, lack of awareness raises questions over their introduction, warned the CMI.
Head of policy Rob Wall pointed, however, to their potential popularity among parents and those studying them. “It would be easy to dismiss T-levels as the next failed experiment in post-16 technical education," he said. "However, our survey shows that T-levels could be popular.
“The challenge lies in informing and educating parents about their potential – as well as educating employers and addressing employer concerns about the delivery of the proposed work placement element,” he added.
Finding non-traditional routes into the workforce to improve social mobility should be a priority, Wall said. "Given the success of technical and vocational routes in widening participation and promoting social mobility, it is a real concern to see the low lack of awareness among parents from poorer backgrounds. This should be a key concern for ministers and policymakers too.”
The CMI's survey follows Department for Education (DfE) research last week that found organisations may be unable to support T-level work-based learning due to lack of resources and staff.
The Employer engagement and capacity to support T Level industry placements report found that employers already offering work-based learning were concerned they could not offer further placements, while those not currently offering such learning also raised concerns over their ability to offer meaningful opportunities.
Managing director of City & Guilds Kirstie Donnelly responded that research by her organisation found that the government needs to offer more support to employers.
“While we found that there was a promising degree of goodwill among employers in principle, if they are to deliver these work placements in anywhere near the numbers required, employers told us that the government would need to offer significantly more support than indicated in this... report," she commented.
"In particular, employers told us that they would require government funding to deliver these 40-60-day placements; specific curricula to follow and ongoing governmental advice and guidance."
She added: "The introduction of T-levels will bring about an enormous step change in the length and format of work placements, with the average currently being just one to two weeks long. This should not be underestimated during implementation."