Oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood wants older school pupils to have the option to take National Certificates (NC) across Scotland.
Fifth and sixth-year pupils would then be given the opportunity to sit more advanced college certificates, such as an HND, alongside academic subjects.
The findings were published among the initial recommendations of Sir Ian's independent Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce.
The shift would come with additional as-yet unspecified costs in the first few years but would save money in the long term, he said.
"Right now, according to current figures, every morning in Scotland 77,000 young people wake up in the morning wondering whether society really needs them," Sir Ian said as his report was published.
"That's a pretty motivating thought."
The proposals come a week after an Audit Scotland report warned that funding for colleges continues to fall.
The SNP's political opponents say college budgets are being cut too far.
But Sir Ian's report states: "There could be some additional college costs for a good news reason. It's probable with the vocational pathway beginning in fourth-year school, there will be significantly more NC and HNC qualifications as well as more demand from young people for HND, all of which would enrich Scotland's young workforce.
"The Scottish Government, local authorities and regional college boards should work together to reach an early agreement on the resourcing of transitional costs.
"If the increase in vocational qualifications and educational attainment results in better outcomes for students, these costs will be fully justified in terms of increased productivity and reduced costs relating to unemployment and its consequences."