Colleges should teach all their students basic employability skills such as time-keeping, dress code and teamworking, according to the Government's skills commission.
Sir Michael Rake, chairman of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said these skills should be written into all college and school curricula.
"We feel strongly that publicly funded education should make sure that employability skills are core to what it does," he said.
"Technical skills are worth nothing if you do not have employability skills around engagement, teamwork, leadership and enthusiasm for what you do.
"We must use the funding policy to make sure that there is a change in institutional practice."
Sir Michael was addressing an event run by the Deloitte consultancy firm. It was designed as a call to action for employers and government to encourage them to work together to improve the delivery of employability skills in training and education programmes.
Lord Young, the minister for skills and apprenticeships, said: "I don't know why we call them soft skills because, to me, employability skills are essential skills.
"We are investing huge sums in skills, but to me it is not just about money. We are trying to make sure the skills offered are demand-led. We are looking not just for quantity in training and skills, but quality too."
Deloitte runs its own employability skills initiative that delivers 240 courses across the UK in partnership with 58 FE colleges.
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