Ed Miliband has attacked the "snobbery" which views university education as the only route to social mobility.
The Labour leader said it was important to "celebrate" vocational qualifications such as apprenticeships and other training opportunities for young people who do not go to university.
"I think there has been a certain snobbery in this country," he told ITV Daybreak.
"Of course it is important that we get lots of people into university, I support more people going to university but I don't think we have talked enough in the last few years about how we help those who don't go to university, maybe who don't want to do that, who aren't academically inclined, how we help them to get on and succeed.
"Our message to the 50% of people who don't go to university at the moment, can't be 'Well, there is nothing here in our country for you'. We have got to show them that they can do well and do better for themselves and their families and get on in life."
Mr Miliband's remarks were made as he was due to attack the coalition Government for allowing social mobility to go into reverse in Britain. He will insist in a speech to the Sutton Trust conference in London that more must be done to open the "closed circles" in many careers by improving access to university and vocational training.
"Tackling social mobility is a huge mountain to climb and the last Labour government took some important steps," Mr Miliband will tell the conference.
"But now Britain is sliding backwards. This Government seems to think we can let those at the top take whatever rewards they think fit and somehow everyone else can just play catch-up. You can't claim the mantle of social mobility and then make your priority cutting taxes for millionaires while raising taxes for everyone else."
Mr Miliband will stress that allowing young people from poorer backgrounds to reach university is crucial to improving the situation. He is to say: "I know how much more there is to be done to open those closed circles of Britain. Not just to the universities, but to journalism, law, finance - and politics too."
But he will also insist that there must be options for people who choose not to go to university. He will say: "The debate has been too narrowly focused. We should reject the snobbery that assumes the only route to social mobility runs through university - as if there is only one pathway to success."