The success of global policies and strategies aimed at training for productive work depends to a large extent on the level of development of basic skills among the work force and, likewise, training costs will vary according to the level of general preparation of those entering on the process. In view of the close relationship between the structure of the school system, the development of basic skills and actual training, different options are available for attempting to resolve imbalances between training for productive employment and previous basic education. These range from expanding and upgrading formal education to hiring persons with a low level of education and compensating for their weaknesses through training, with a number of variants that lie somewhere between those two alternatives. Our conclusions, based on the available information, are that training cannot replace basic education, that the process of technological change goes hand in hand with an increased demand for workers with a high level of education, that substituting training in specific skills for good basic education is not the most efficient option, and that one of the favourable effects of primary education is that it facilitates after-school training. Attempting to improve labour productivity solely through specific training would not appear to be the most efficient option. Basic skills development is a necessary complement, if not a downright prerequisite, for vocational training. This article seeks to identify certain dimensions of human resource training which are often overlooked in relation to both basic skills and specific training proper: namely, the imbalances existing between vocational training and previous education, and the options available for correcting them.