Access All Areas, commissioned by the Foyer Federation, a charity which aims to help vulnerable young people into work and independent living, says that longitudinal studies have showed that "character" and "soft skills" are more important than academic credentials, and are more prevalent among the wealthy.
The authors say: "In today's labour market, soft skills, or `character capabilities', are a critical component of a young person's employability and life chances.
"The ability to answer a phone politely, communicate ideas, empathise with colleagues and demonstrate `gumption' and self-confidence are critically important in an economy increasingly dominated by the service sector.
"Very little work has explored the activities and experiences that might better develop character capabilities through the teenage and early adult years. The role of work-based training and experience in developing capabilities is particularly overlooked."
The report says that studies in neuroscience have showed that areas of the brain responsible for these characteristics are not fixed in childhood, instead developing rapidly in adolescence.
Other research reports that former apprentices are more likely to never feel hopeless (92 per cent compared to 75 per cent of the general population) and more likely to say they felt confident, happy and more skilled, it says.
It recommends intervening with employability skills assessments for young jobseekers and incentivising employers to offer work experience programmes to give more teenagers an opportunity to learn soft skills in the workplace.