Jim McColl OBE, chief executive of Glasgow-based Clyde Blowers, believes the teaching of vocational subjects should not be left to schools and could be developed in specialist "junior colleges".
Under the scheme, pupils in the third and fourth year of secondary school who do not wish to pursue an academic curriculum could leave and attend a junior college.
There, they would be taught key academic subjects such as English and maths and vocational subjects, personal skills, sport, nutrition and motivational classes.
Students aged between 14 and 16 would be taught by a mixture of GTCS-registered teachers and industry experts, with funding coming from a mixture of private and public sources.
The expectation is that students leaving the colleges would be much better prepared for a workforce training course or apprenticeship or to go to university or college.
Mr McColl said: "The academic path is not right for everyone and the system is not flexible enough to accommodate those people who do not wish to follow that path.
"The education system we have, I think, is suited to maybe 80% of the kids at school, but there is this 20% that really kind of switch off."
The model for Mr McColl's plan is the proposed Newlands Junior College, on the south side of Glasgow, which is expected to open in August 2013.
The college will take some 30 pupils a year from 10 schools in the surrounding area who would be considered unlikely to achieve high grades in school exams.
Mr McColl left school at 16 to become an apprentice at Weir Pumps in Glasgow. He later completed a business degree and in 1992 bought a stake in Clyde Blowers, helping to develop it into a global engineering company.