Eight in ten businesses believe school leavers lack the basic skills needed for work and that more should be done to get them prepared for employment, research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found.
Poor literacy skills were the most commonly cited problem for 59 per cent of businesses. Communication and numeracy skills were also reported by 55 per cent and 56 per cent of owners respectively as falling short of acceptable.
Surveying 2,774 business owners who employ 16-17 year olds, 77 per cent also found that school leavers had little awareness of general business.
The admission prompted two thirds of FSB members to say that improving pupil's basic literacy and numeracy skills would better prepare them for work.
The FSB said it was concerned that young people ill equipped with these skills would find it difficult to compete in the UK's tough job market - figures last week revealed that a million young people are out of work in the UK.
National chairman for the FSB John Walker said: "Businesses are more than ready to invest time and money training staff in job-related skills, but expect them to come with at least the basics. It is a concern that businesses have again highlighted numeracy, literacy and core workplace skills, such as communication, as major problems."
It said that careers guidance provided by schools to students as early as possible was key to getting young people better prepared for work. Skills such as CV writing, time-keeping, problem solving and team working, it believes, would give young people a better understanding of the jobs market and career paths.
"All schools should be offering work experience to their pupils and engaging with local small businesses to ensure that young people are getting the work-related learning that they need," Walker added.