National training organisations came under fire last week from minister for lifelong learning Malcolm Wicks.
Speaking at the National Training Organisation National Council annual conference in London, the MP said that NTOs could make no impact on the urgent skills crisis facing industry in their present format.
He underlined the need for a "strategic framework" for NTO development, which would set the context for decisions by government, employers and NTOs about sector representation.
He set out plans for a consultation paper to be published next month which will outline a future framework.
Wicks said, "I want to begin an open and honest debate with NTOs, employers and others with an interest in sector skills arrangements about the future direction, size and shape of the network.
"A debate that will lead to a clear view by next spring about how we can move from where we are, to having strong NTOs respected by employers and the key institutions throughout the UK and beyond."
Wicks emphasised that this could not be achieved with the current network size and called for NTOs to think about how it should change to become smaller and how they could join to form new and stronger bodies.
His comments follow research which revealed only 38 per cent of employers know about NTOs, despite the fact they are meant to be employer-led bodies.
Chairman of the NTO National Council Garry Hawkes CBE said, "It is quintessentially important that the Government is clear about what they expect of us. For our part, we need to take the initiative and agree through consultation the way forward."
The National Training Organisation body is made up of 75 organisations which represent employers on the skills and people development needs of UK industry.
By Helen Gilbert