Women business leaders have urged parents to encourage their kids to get a part-time job rather than obsess about doing brilliantly in exams.
Children should work in shops on Saturdays to prepare them for the reality of the workplace, said the Government-backed Women's Business Council.
They said a generation of children are leaving school or university with little or no real experience of the workplace, which leaves them totally unprepared for working life.
Sue O'Brien, from the Women's Business Council, who is also chief executive of the recruitment company Norman Broadbent, said: "I think it is the pressure that we are putting children under to excel and exceed in academic life.
"It means that they then don't get the practical work experience of: 'This is what it is going to be like to find a job when I leave school'."
She added: "There are an awful lot of graduates leaving university at the moment who literally have got no work experience at all. It is a huge deficit."
She raised fears some schools are discouraging pupils from getting a part-time job because they worry it will disrupt their academic studies and consequently hit the school's performance in league tables.
Mrs O'Brien said: "I think they [schools] can often advise children: 'Don't get a Saturday job. Focus on your education', particularly because they want to improve their performance on tables.
"You need to have employable young people leaving our education system. That is not just about their academic ability."
Her own career was shaped by getting a job at the supermarket chain Sainsbury's when she was a 16-year-old school girl. She worked every Thursday night from 5pm-8pm and for seven hours every Saturday, and went onto to work for Sainsbury's for 12 years rising rapidly up the career ladder.
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