The outgoing head of Britain's biggest business lobby group has claimed that problems of poor productivity and skills shortages are rooted in schools rather than the workplace.
John Cridland, who steps down from his job as director-general of the CBI next week, wants young people to be given more help in preparing for work, and says they have been "failed" by the current education system.
He believes that improvements to the education system have been geared to academically able children.
"We need an equally powerful option for children who don't learn by sitting in rows in front of a whiteboard," Mr Cridland said. "They want to do something."
He was particularly critical of the careers service, which he said was on "life support", adding that advice on vocational options should be given to young people from the age of 14.
The CBI boss also called for radical changes to exams, saying that subjects such as engineering and creative industries should have the same A-level status as other, more traditional ones like maths and English.
Speaking in advance of the CBI's annual conference next week, Mr Cridland also re-stated his call for the abolition of GCSEs. "I don't see the point of exams at 16 – they get in the way," he said. "We put kids through an exam factory, which causes endless pressure."
He added that young people were being failed by the education system and described it as the "Achilles heel" of economic growth.