The Learning and Skills Council must do more to improve its performance and recruit higher-calibre staff, the quango's second-in-command admitted this week.
Rob Wye, director of strategy and communications, told FE Focus the council was underperforming and had failed to win the respect of college principals and senior managers. "We have to bring in new blood," he said.
His frank admission came as he announced that colleges would be given a clearer role in meeting the country's skills challenge and should be left to get on with it.
This was his view from consultations in the ongoing LSC Agenda for Change roadshows and the initial findings of Sir Andrew Foster's review of FE colleges. Mr Wye recognised that the independent training providers - currently under great financial pressure - would not like what he was saying about the primacy of colleges.
"But Sir Andrew has posed the question: is the college a major player or just a delivery agent? What is its role as against the role of the LSC? Does the level of investment make colleges special or different to other providers?
"I think it does. We have put considerable money into creating a strong set of multi-faceted, publicly-owned institutions, which we ought to be capitalising on."
But to provide support, the LSC needed to raise its game, he said. "We need more people capable of dialogue with colleges and other partners. We have brought in 17 new directors with FE experience.
"The problem is a dearth of talent. As one principal told me, 'you want the sector to be better for the future but when we train them, you nick them'."
Better in-service training was part of the answer but there was also a need to bring in new people. "The nature of the job has changed.
Colleges are more complex, and we all need to perform better."