Ministers should reinstate compulsory work experience for pupils in English schools, business leaders have urged.
Some 82% of more than 3,000 bosses polled by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said all pupils under 16 should be offered work placements.
The coalition government scrapped compulsory work experience in England in 2012.
The Department for Education said it was "determined" to help teenagers make informed choices about their careers.
The government was also "providing valuable support" for pupils through the Careers and Enterprise Company, which works with secondary schools and colleges to develop relationships with employers, a spokesman added.
BCC director John Longworth said scrapping compulsory work experience had been "careless... but it is not too late to correct the mistake".
Work experience is a vital for equipping young people with the skills they need, according to 79% of the business leaders surveyed. Some 55% valued volunteering and 69% said paid part-time work was key.
However, 36% said their own firms offered no work experience of any kind.
Large employers were most likely to offer placements - only 12% of firms with more than 250 employees offered no placements at all.
But 59% of the smallest businesses, those with a workforce of fewer than 10, said they did not offer work experience.
The BCC is calling for more help for businesses - particularly small firms - wanting to offer work placements to teenagers.
The survey reveals more would offer work experience if they were given better information on what was required and how it would help their businesses.
Companies also called for help in building relationships with local schools and bridging the gap between the worlds of education and work.
Mr Longworth said compulsory work experience was crucial "to ensure that every school pupil has the chance to feel the energy, dynamism, buzz and challenge of the workplace for themselves.
"Work experience is crucial to bringing down our stubbornly high youth unemployment rate.
"It will help ensure more young people are prepared for work.
"It will help close the yawning skills gaps reported by frustrated businesses across the UK, who face huge difficulty filling vacancies at every level."
He pledged the BCC would work with the governments of all four UK nations "to ensure that more and more businesses engage with schools, offer work placements to young people, and help the next generation get the start that they deserve."
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the BCC was right to flag up the "mistaken policy of downplaying the importance of work experience".
Ms Blower said the government should also empower and fund local authorities to rebuild careers advisory services "lost due to government cuts".