The University for Industry has unveiled an ambitious new target for its learndirect service to recruit a million learners by 2004-05.
With just over 250,000 learndirect recruits so far, learndirect chiefs are adamant that they are on course to achieve the target, contained in the UfI's strategic plan for 2002-05.
They are hoping that the present trend for learndirect learners to take at least two courses will continue, pushing the total number of enrolments up to 2 million by the target date.
They are also aiming to increase the number of employers involved to 70,000 from about 11,000, and the number of basic skills learners up to 250,000 to make up a third of the government's overall target in this area.
Ann Limb, the UfI's new chief executive, believes that learndirect's latest initiatives will not only put it on track to achieve these goals, but also to "do for 21st century learning what the Open University did for 20th-century higher education".
With the National Health Service, Barclays Bank and the Army already signing up employees for learndirect courses, UfI had now set its sights on all government departments for possible recruits, and hoped to be recognised as "a platform for the delivery of transferable skills", Ms Limb said.
She also saw "huge potential for development" of learndirect's one higher education initiative, Learning Through Work, which has five participating universities offering degree and postgraduate online courses in collaboration with employers.
Ms Limb said: "It's a way for employers to become more involved in higher education because of the relevance of the learning to the workplace. They can negotiate the content of the courses, which means the employee can also get more involved in deciding what is studied and what qualification to aim for."
Earlier problems between learndirect and providers over contracts have been cleared up, she said.
As a former of principal of Cambridge Regional College and with 25 years' experience working in further education, Ms Limb could see how "the whole business of the contract had been tied up with a lack of understanding of the relationship between the further education sector and learndirect".
With these problems ironed out, learndirect's targets were now "completely realistic", she said.
"The conditions could not be better for the learning market to be expanded and the learning age vision to be realised," Ms Limb said.