Sir Michael Rake, chairman of BT and president of business group CBI, said:
Over the last 25 years and longer there have been multiple initiatives from different Secretaries of State which have not achieved the necessary improvement in educational standards.
It is therefore time to establish a cross-party apolitical approach to education to move on from our narrow out-dated focus with A-levels and to improve on the other competencies necessary for success including the fundamental need to improve the basic skills of literacy and numeracy which are at an unacceptably low level.
Education chiefs called for a wider baccalaureate to be brought in so 16-18-year-olds would cover languages, sciences and softer skills like teamwork.
The move would allow young people to keep their career options open and give them more opportunities later in life, the report argues.
The business leaders and academics behind the report said a baccalaureate, similar to the International Baccalaureate which teenagers take in mainland Europe, could also be used to teach students critical thinking and problem solving.
"In broad terms they are the skills that enable young people to face the demands of higher education and career challenges in a global and very competitive environment," the report said.