The government must end "scandalous shortcomings" in education, the Confederation of British Industry's new director-general is warning.
Mr Lambert says much remains to be done to raise standards
Richard Lambert says Britain is "woefully short of world-class" skills, with too many teenagers leaving school with poor reading and numeracy.
Education must remain the "number one priority", he says in a speech.
The Department for Education and Skills says there is a focus on English and maths, and standards are rising.
Mr Lambert is to tell a reception at the House of Commons: "Despite the increases in spending, British skills at all levels remain woefully short of world-class, with a shockingly high proportion of our young people still leaving school without the basic literacy and numeracy skills needed by business.
"Education, education, education - it was to be this government's number one priority.
"Much remains to be done if our children are to have the future employment potential they deserve."
Last month, Mr Lambert's predecessor as CBI director-general, Sir Digby Jones, said half of all school-leavers were unfit to enter the job market.
Statistics show that more than half of England's 16-year-olds do not achieve the equivalent of five good GCSE-level qualifications including English and maths.
A government-commissioned inquiry by former Ofsted chief Sir Mike Tomlinson found that even those who did have good GCSE maths and English often lacked "functional" skills of the sort businesses need.
The government has ordered a change in the qualifications to reflect those requirements.
The first syllabuses are due to be available around the turn of the decade.
Skills minister Bill Rammell said: "No government has done more to ensure young people get the education they need and leave schools with skills for the workplace."
An official survey published in Scotland last week suggested that more than half of all 14-year-olds there had not reached expected standards in basic numeracy and literacy.