Over 40 per cent of Birmingham's 16-year-old school leavers are unemployable in anything but the most menial roles, business leaders warned last night.
GCSE qualifications gained by more than one in four youngsters are not good enough to get a rewarding job, it was claimed.
The stark comments were made as a survey of employers found nearly a quarter will not look at school leavers without at least five decent GCSEs graded between A* and C.
The proportion of 16-year-olds in Birmingham gaining the benchmark target last year was 56.7 per cent.
The warning comes from the Government's skills and training quango, the Learning and Skills Council, as thousands pick up GCSE results today.
The LSC survey found 15 per cent of employers would bin any CV failing to meet the five A* to C level.
Julia Dowd, director of young people's learning for the LSC, based in Coventry, said: "We should be concerned. In the old days the top ten per cent could get their A levels, go to university and have the boss's job.
"For the other 90 per cent there were jobs in factories that didn't need skills or qualifications. All of those have gone. We are a skilled economy now and it is essential we have a skilled workforce. Three-quarters of recruiters are saying it is not even worth putting a job application in until you have basic qualifications."
Last year, 28 per cent of 16-year-olds in Birmingham and Solihull left education after GCSEs.
Most of them failed to gain five A* to Cs, according to the LSC.
Tim Watts, chairman of Midland-based Pertemps, said: "The people employment agencies are looking for have particular skills.
"There will always be a job out there for a burger flipper or shelf stacker, but if you want an interesting and rewarding job and pursue a career of your choice rather than one you fall into, you will have to apply yourself."