Schools and colleges in Wales are to be sent quarterly bulletins on skills shortages in the labour market to help them tailor their courses to meet employers' needs.
And anyone without any qualifications, including young people who have dropped out of education, will be entitled to free training up to level 1 - the equivalent of GCSE grades D to G.
The proposals are in an Assembly government action plan designed to boost economic development in Wales by improving qualifications and increasing the number of higher-skilled jobs.
Wales is more successful in getting children from poor backgrounds into higher education than England and Scotland, and GCSE and A-level results have improved steadily, according to the Assembly government's skills and employment action plan (SKEAP). But around 12 per cent (13,300) of 16 to 18-year-olds in Wales are not in education, training or work, while one in five adults of working age has no qualifications and nearly a quarter lack level 1 literacy skills.
Employers are crying out for school-leavers with good literacy and numeracy skills, but more than three in five pupils who finished compulsory schooling last summer did not achieve grades A* to C in GCSE English or Welsh, maths and science.
Educational reforms, particularly of the 14-19 curriculum, form a key part of the SKEAP, which will be discussed by Assembly members next week. But it also acknowledges that employers need to show more commitment to improving workers' skills.
Brian Rowlands, secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association Cymru, said:
"The curriculum of secondary schools cannot be turned around quickly. Their priority is to provide the broad general education required by the majority while paying attention to the needs identified in the plan."
Learning Pathways, the Assembly's 14-19 policy, aims to widen the choice of vocational and work-based courses and give more support with personal problems. The SKEAP envisages that Learning Pathways will also boost the key skills employers need.
Jane Davidson, education and lifelong learning minister, said: "The plan approaches the problems and challenges in a holistic way, integrating the needs of individuals, communities and businesses. It contains more than 50 new evidence-based actions to help develop skills and bring more people into employment."
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