The successes of Britain's economy over the past ten years will not be sustained without continued improvement in skills, a Government minister warned Black Country business leaders yesterday.
Skills Minister Phil Hope said the skills agenda was "a topic whose time has come".
Speaking at a meeting at Walsall he said: "The Government is telling business at every opportunity that skills is a shared agenda. We do have a skills gap, which is costing the economy around £10 billion."
He went on to outline plans aimed at enabling more than two million adults to improve their basic skills by 2010 and to establish national skills academies in a range of sectors.
Vocational foundation degrees were also helping to raise the quality of Britain's workforce, Mr Hope said.
Some of the 50 business and e ducation leaders who attended the meeting, which was organised by Black Country Chamber of Commerce and West Midlands Business Council, said that both employers and employees were confused by the existing wide number of organisations, partnerships and initiatives concerned with education and training.
The minister said in response that the Train To Gain brokerage scheme was now offering a one-stop service that directed companies to the most appropriate training providers.
Chamber president John Tew said: "This is more than just a business issue - there is a significant social element, which also needs to be considered."
The chamber is to hold an employer-focused skills summit in the autumn, when business leaders will be able to talk in-depth to ministers about the issue.