Businesses have said they would welcome being forced to spend more money on training. A survey by the Association of Colleges showed that 68 per cent of business leaders in London and the South-east would be happy with measures which forced them to invest in their staff.
John Brennan, chief executive of the AoC, said: "These findings suggest that business leaders would welcome more pressure on them to invest in their workforce."
The study, carried out by Continental Research, looked at 200 businesses.
The AoC has been asking ministers to get businesses to make a bigger contribution towards vocational training.
Compulsion, especially in levies, has been resisted by ministers but such measures might be welcomed by companies if they provided an even playing field.
But when asked to identify the highest priority, 4 per cent of business leaders from the region mentioned skills, compared with 18 per cent who wanted lower utility bills and 20 per cent who favoured lower bank charges.
Businesses also called for higher grants and tax credits for employers investing in training. And, while 17 per cent wanted more funding for FE colleges, only 7 per cent wanted lower university tuition fees.
The AoC says colleges provide 200 million days of learning a year while businesses provide 50m training days, most of which is for "low-level statutory training" such as health and safety.
Education minister Alan Johnson was reluctant to be drawn on levies but said he would be disappointed if businesses failed to invest in staff training, including provision for time off to help improve skills at level 2 and, in some areas, level 3 as well.