Nearly three-quarters of people in the region believe that employers who fail to train their workforce should be fined by the Government, according to a survey by the Association of Colleges (AoC).

Fifty-five per cent said that people could not depend on employers to take responsibility for improving skills.

John Brennan, chief executive of the AoC, speaking on the first day of the organisation's annual conference, said: "People do not trust their employer to improve their skills.

"They felt so strongly about this that they believe the Government should fine those companies who fail to train their workforce properly."

The survey also found that 61 per cent of people in the North-East, as well as half of all respondents over 55, believed they would need to upgrade their skills to protect their income and improve their employmentprospects.

"These figures show that the public has got the message about the importance of upskilling," said Dr Brennan.