The House of Lords Committee on Social Mobility says curriculum focuses too much on academic route, leaving those who do not go to university unprepared for world of work.
It also argues that “a culture of inequality between vocational and academic routes to work” pervades the education system.
Concluding: “The expansion of higher education has served some groups well. It has, however, disadvantaged those already underserved by the education system and inhibited upwards social mobility for those in the middle.
“Non-academic routes to employment are complex, confusing and incoherent. The qualifications system is similarly confused and has been subjected to continual change.”
Instead, the final four years of schooling should be redesigned so that more pupils can pass recognised vocational qualifications on a par with A-levels.
Baroness Corston said university and apprenticeship routes to work “can work well” but are not suitable for everyone.
“Without being taught life skills, given the right support, access to work experience and robust, independent careers advice, we are in danger of trapping these young people in low-skilled, low-paid work, with little chance of a rewarding career,” she said.
“A young person considering their options for further education or employment is presented with gobbledygook.
“It is totally unclear to them how they can get the skills needed for a successful career.”
She added: “Simply put, young people choosing not to go to university are not invested in as they should be.”
And the report added that 77 per cent of apprenticeship starters in 2014/15 were over the age of 19, with 41.6 per cent over the age of 25.
The Government has boasted that it will train three million apprentices over the course of this parliament.
The committee recommended the national curriculum stopping at age 14, with a “key transition stage” implemented between the ages of 14 and 19.
It also suggested a new “gold standard” in independent careers advice, with the onus moved away from schools and colleges.