One in five employers believe school-leavers make better workers than university graduates, according to new research.
A survey among 1,000 firms by recruitment giant Adecco found that over half argued that university graduates had unrealistic expectations of working life and one in three believed that the education system was failing to equip young people with the skills required by British businesses.
Adecco called on the education system, employers and the government to tackle "substantial shortcomings" in workplace skills.
Newcomers to the world of work were found to be most lacking in interpersonal and computer skills, while one in four employers reported a lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills among graduate recruits.
Chris Moore, of Adecco Group, said: "Undeniably, Britain has one of the best and most advanced education systems in the world but it must deliver a talented, reliable graduate workforce that brings demonstrable value to UK plc. On a significant scale, employers believe it is failing to do that.
"Although extremely valuable, a strong academic record is no longer a sufficient prerequisite for entry into today's working environment. Employers now hold attitude and personality in greater esteem than academic or even vocational qualifications when assessing new recruits.
"Collectively, we - the g overnment, businesses and educators - must work together and take full responsibility for developing skills in line with commercial needs.
"Financial acumen, communications techniques and a full appreciation of the attitude required to excel in the commercial world must now form a core part of curricula. We have to listen to employers who are telling us that our education system has to ensure soft skills are valued alongside an emphasis on academic excellence."