The Learning and Skills Council has its work cut out to rescue work-based education and training from mediocrity and often outright failure, according to a report by David Sherlock, chief inspector of the Training Standards Council.
Mr Sherlock hoped his report would enable the LSC - set up in April this year - to learn from the mistakes made by the Training and Enterprise Councils (Tecs).
The report reveals that nearly two-thirds of the 1,566 education providers inspected for the first time over the past three years were awarded at least one unsatisfactory grade in 2000-01, a 10 per cent increase on 1998-99's figures.
The Tecs, which used to coordinate work-based training, come in for particular criticism. Mr Sherlock said: "How can it be that providers with so many obvious weaknesses were allowed to hold contracts for public funding without any stimulus to improve?" The New Deal for the unemployed, which included an education and training option, also came under fire. Mr Sherlock said it was too complex and bureaucratic, mainly because its structure was created to deal with larger numbers of unemployed people than there were at present.
Mr Sherlock said: "We have a small group of providers at the top who are world class, followed by a group of mixed provision. But there is a group at the bottom who are simply dire. I think too many young people are getting a raw deal at the moment".
The TSC has become the Adult Learning Inspectorate, with Mr Sherlock as chief inspector.