Gordon Brown has accused the coalition government of making "immoral" cuts to education that would leave the UK with a major youth unemployment problem.
Writing in the Daily Mirror, the former Labour prime minister said removing state help for less well-off pupils to stay in education after 16 was an act of "economic vandalism".
He called for more apprenticeships to avert a "decade of youth unemployment".
Official figures suggest 2.5 million people are unemployed in the UK.
The information, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this week, revealed the number of people out of work increased by 35,000 in the three months to October.
It is the first time that the jobless measure has risen for six months.
The rise is thought to be driven by public sector job losses and pushed the unemployment rate up to 7.9%.
Mr Brown said the UK should follow the lead of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Australia in boosting apprenticeship places to train young people to help the UK exploit fast-growing Asian consumer markets.
The former Labour leader, who has written a book about the global economic crisis, predicted that youth unemployment would rise to more than 20% - with one in three out of work in the worst-hit areas.
He wrote: "We are still paying the price for the lost generation of wasted lives of the 1980s. Now we have a new social time bomb in the making."
Mr Brown suggested saving the Future Jobs Programme from being scrapped would keep 50,000 young people "off the streets" and rather than reducing funding for universities - made up by rises in tuition fees - the government should ensure they "do a better job".
He argued that by "cutting education", ministers were "writing off half a generation of young people", which he described as "immoral and an economic waste".
"We need to invest in British genius, in the innovations, the science, the technology that will build the best future - and help small businesses to employ skilled young people.
"That's the way to avoid another lost generation of wasted young lives."