Its shortcomings are underlined by a section of the White Paper which lists the failures of the system alongside its successes. Weaknesses clearly outweigh strengths - by seven to four.
"The current system is failing a significant section of the community, often the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. It is also failing to match skills to the needs of the local labour market," the Paper says. It sums up the post-16 education and training sector's achievements as:
* Increased participation and efficiency;
* The success of Modern Apprenticeships and Investors in People;
* The percentage of 17-year-olds in maintained school sixth forms with two A-level passes has more than doubled in 10 years to 69 per cent;
* Staying-on rate for 16-year-olds steady at 85 per cent after years of decline.
But despite "many examples of excellent progress" by colleges and others, "much more needs to be done to reach out and respond to the needs of learners". It identifies problem areas including:
* 160,000 16 to 18-year-olds are neither working nor learning;
* Adults with low skills and poor qualifications are excluded and their children are likely to follow; l The disabled are more than twice as likely to be unqualified and unemployed;
* Major recruitment problems in some occupations;
* Too much learning unsuited to the needs of learners;
* Patchy careers guidance.
Funding and planning systems have "fundamental weaknesses" and each sector is singled out for criticism. The result, according to the White Paper, is a "bureaucratic minefield that is confusing, difficult to negotiate and often impedes rather than encourages the learner."