Bill Rammell, the further and higher education minister, says he sees a new order emerging among college managers - with a beefed-up management recruitment programme for the top jobs.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership in London on Monday, he said: "These reforms are urgently needed. I know some argue that change ought to be slower, but I disagree.
"Evolutionary and incremental change is not sufficient to meet the challenges ahead. A fundamental reform in the role colleges and training providers play is vital if we're to retain public confidence in the sector.
"Strong and committed leadership is required to assure both learners and employers of the value of further education in meeting their respective needs, to enhance employability and strengthen the competitive edge," said the minister.
Colleges and other training organisations will be encouraged to form federations to make the most of their resources and the funding system will be designed to reward colleges which respond to customer demand.