The leaders of more than 200 further education colleges in England have written to the government demanding that a series of reforms be implemented.
A total of 203 principals wrote to chancellor Philip Hammond and education secretary Damian Hinds, calling for the government to follow the recommendations of the recent post-18 education review.
'A skills revolution'
Led by Dr Philip Augar and published last month, the review called for a reverse in the cuts to adult skills provision and extensive investment in colleges to strengthen technical education.
It warned that adults need to be able to access education in order to succeed amid the emerging pattern of shorter job cycles and longer working lives.
The review recommended that a lifelong learning loan allowance be introduced to help end the skills shortage in the workforce.
It also urged the government to draw up plans to even out further education provision across over-supplied and under-supplied areas, as well as to provide much greater support for disadvantaged students.
The authors of the review also called for the quality of apprenticeships to be guaranteed to ensure that they were providing trainees with the skills they need in rapidly developing industries.
Further education 'neglected'
The letter was coordinated by Alun Francis, the principal at Oldham College in Greater Manchester, and said: "In many respects the [post-18 education review] represents a wider emerging consensus across England.
"We are sure that you will agree with us and other key stakeholders that further education colleges have been neglected, and that there is now a growing appreciation of their unique role, value and potential."
It added: " What we now need are decisions and commitments – with your political leadership, support and resolve, colleges will be able to build on what they already do to reach more employers and more adults and make the differences our economy and society need. "
Technical education 'is a hidden strength'
Mr Francis said: "The technical and professional education which our colleges specialise in is a hidden strength of this country.
"There is some astonishingly good provision, but the system overall has been held back by [the lack of] a clear view of its role backed by a serious investment plan."
The letter warned that the current skills gap could be reducing economic output by £3.3 billion a year.
Bev Robinson, principal and chief executive of Blackpool and The Fylde College and one of the authors of the review, said choosing to enact the recommendations would demonstrate the government's commitment to generating a "skills revolution". She added that industry is "crying out" for more skilled workers and that it would help to promote equality.
A spokesman for the Department of Education said: "We are currently considering the recommendations from the post-18 education review and will be responding to them all."