Sir Adrian Webb, the main author of a landmark report addressing the Welsh skills gap, said this week that urgent and radical change was needed to avoid a meltdown in 14-19 education.
Sir Adrian, the former vice chancellor of Glamorgan University, said Wales could not go on with significant numbers of young people leaving university without skills and qualifications.
He stressed the importance of new Wales-only legislation making the 14-19 learning pathways a legal requirement by next September.
Consultation is underway on plans for a new law making collaboration between schools and colleges, and the provision of a wider range of vocational and academic options for learners, compulsory.
Officials say legislation is necessary because too many learners are being failed by a lack of vocational opportunities.
But headteachers and teaching unions are united in their anger at the proposed new law, which they say has been forced on them without consultation.
The Assembly government's line is that a lack of vocational opportunities offered by schools is currently failing all Welsh learners, but that argument is questioned by some.
Neil Foden, of Ysgol Friars in Bangor, said he did not believe the new 14- 19 curriculum benefits all his learners, and many of his brighter pupils did not have skills led learning, including the Welsh baccalaurate, on their radar as they prepare for university.
Peter Hawthorne, one of the architects of a 14-19 scheme in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, held up as a model of good practice by officials in Wales, said the country did not have the infrastructure to realise its vocational aims.
The city to follow, pages 4amp;5.