The CIPD has questioned the relevance of A-levels, claiming they provide employers with applicants who are inadequately prepared for the workplace.
Roy Harrison, the institute’s adviser on education and training, criticised an exam system that focuses too narrowly on a small number of academic subjects.
He said the institute backs the introduction of a “first degree style” qualification covering up to six subjects.
“While A-levels are an essential basis for raising the skills levels of the UK workforce,” he said, “many personnel managers have concerns about the results.
“The numbers taking Advanced GNVQs – the new vocational A-levels – have fallen and even these are frequently valued only in relation to their acceptability for university entrance.”
Tim Craddock, head of recruitment and employment law at Air Miles, disagreed. Craddock, previously HR operations manager for SmithKline Beecham, said he had not experienced a shortage of candidates with vocational qualifications.
“It depends on what you are recruiting for. I previously worked in the chemicals industry and we primarily recruited graduates.
“To become a graduate, the main route to university is through the A-level system.”
Jacqui Cunning, people support manager at West Bromwich Building Society, said reactions to A-level exam pressure was a good measure of a candidate’s ability to deal with tough workplace situations. She said, “We do tend to take on more people with A-levels than with GNVQs or vocational qualifications.
“A-levels do reflect the fact that an individual can look after themselves in a pressurised situation at work.”
By Richard Staines