Raising the basic skills of people in Wales to the level needed could be a 20-year job, according to a senior manager in ELWa, the post-16 education funding agency.
The agency's latest annual survey of post-16 education and training needs across Wales highlights demand for courses on basic skills, construction, tourism, and management development, and for support for the economically inactive to get back into work.
And all four regions say more support is needed for 14-19 learning pathways - the Assembly government's policy aimed at broadening the range of individually-tailored vocational and work-based courses offered to teenagers.
Phil Williams, ELWa's head of regional performance, said: "Basic skills have been worked on for a long time, but it could still be a 10 to 20-year job."
He said the agency's latest survey of regional needs and priorities for post-16 provision revealed a growing recognition in schools and colleges of the importance of 14-19 learning pathways.
"It's helped that local authorities are being given small amounts of money to develop good practice and pilot initiatives," he said.
Feedback from providers in south-east Wales also focuses on promoting the Welsh baccalaureate. Recent figures show that FE college students taking the bac are twice as likely to fail as school sixth-formers - 32 per cent compared with 15 per cent in schools.
In mid and south-east Wales the capacity to deliver learning in Welsh is another priority.
And in mid-Wales, ICT and e-learning figure strongly. This is ELWa's fourth annual survey of regional needs. It merges with the Assembly government next April.