An influential group of MPs has branded the Leitch Review skills targets that consume hundreds of millions of pounds of government training funding as "unrealistic and unachievable".
The House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee said blindly trying to hit the overblown targets was distorting government policy.
The government has adopted a series of skills targets outlined by Lord Sandy Leitch in his skills review as vital to prevent the UK becoming an economic backwater from 2020.
But devotion to these numbers risks letting down employers and employees, according to the committee's report, Re-skilling for recovery: After Leitch, implementing skills and training policies.
Published today, the report said: "It is hard to avoid the pessimistic conclusion that the targets may be unrealistic and unachievable, in part because they do not take account of differences in skills needs in regions across the country.
"In relation to 2020, we note that Leitch set out in his report his analysis of the consequences of failing to meet the challenge in full. More immediately, there is the danger that skills policy might be distorted to meet the targets at the expense of programmes and delivery mechanisms that better reflect what employers and individuals really need."
The committee called on the government to broaden the Leitch targets to include re-skilling.
"The current focus, both within the targets and in terms of entitlement to funding for Level 2 qualification, means that those who need to update skills, either because they have been out of the labour market for some time or because their job no longer exists, may not be supported," the report said.
The Leitch targets included increasing the proportion of adults holding five good GCSEs or a vocational equivalent from 69% in 2005 to more than 90% by 2020 making sure 95% of adults had functional literacy and numeracy skills and for an additional two million people to gain A-levels.