Further education colleges have begun lobbying to keep their say in the new training infrastructure due to replace Training and Enterprise Councils.
The Association of Colleges has called for at least one place on the new regional Learning and Skills councils to be reserved for a further education establishment.
Employers have pressed ministers for a guaranteed presence to ensure courses are closely linked to business needs.
"We understand that employers' needs can't be ignored. But education and training is also about more than just developing skills," said David Gibson, chief executive of the Association of Colleges.
"There must be a balance between what we do to enhance skills and boost personal development. Giving people several opportunities during their lifetime to retrain is a further role that we all ignore at our peril."
Learning and skills councils will cover a wider area than the current Tecs, and are due to come into force in April 2001. The composition has not been determined, and the bill to establish them is currently in the House of Lords.