But adult guidance workers continue to voice concerns that Careers Scotland, the new body which is being established in the wake of the Duffner committee's report on the careers service, will result in an unequal partnership with the much larger careers service companies.
The conference was organised by the Scottish Guidance Forum and held on the morning that Motorola in Bathgate announced that 3,000 jobs were at risk. Ms Alexander pleaded with the media to see the employment "big picture" and not just focus on job losses.
"We have created over 100,000 jobs in Scotland, but a further 100,000 remain unemployed and there are an estimated 100,000 vacancies. We need to match those without work to the jobs without workers. Scotland will lead Britain in having a careers service for everyone, not just for school-leavers."
Ms Alexander said that consultation responses on the Duffner report had produced "overwhelming support for the big vision of a national organisation" that will combine the work of careers service companies, adult guidance networks, education business partnerships and lifelong learning partnerships. Eighty bodies will be reduced to 22.
A national "shadow board" and a number of local boards will be set up during the transition. Five "transition teams" will work on finance, human resources, quality, information technology and legal aspects.
Janice Laird, chair of the Scottish Guidance Forum, said concern that careers companies would take over the new lifelong learning partnership had been allayed "to some extent". But she expressed worries about the transition period: "The minister has made it clear that this is a new organisation with a new culture, and it is not a matter of careers organisations subsuming the functions of other bodies within their own.
"Because adult guidance is non-statutory, however, and is funded from a variety of sources, it is possible some of these sources might think that they don't have to put money into adult guidance any more since it is being taken over by a national organisation. We could fin one or two adult guidance services disappearing before Careers Scotland comes on board."
Grant Jeffrey, lecturer in guidance and counselling at Napier University, said that while there were fears incorporation into a new body could undermine a traditionally "holistic" approach, the new arrangements would allow adult guidance networks to work as active partners.
Careers service companies in Scotland currently operate on a budget of pound;21 million and have nearly 1,000 employees, while adult guidance networks have 40 staff and a budget of pound;1.2 million. The importance of effective marketing of Careers Scotland and the implications for staff training were addressed at one of the conference workshops.
Pat Pugh, business development manager with Grampian Careers, said that if the new body was to make its mark quickly resources must be made available to fund marketing and enable people to have a clear view about what will be delivered.
"The example of Learndirect Scotland is very good, as a lot of marketing has gone into that and seems to be paying dividends. That is what we need for Careers Scotland."
Graham Allan, course tutor on the postgraduate diploma and qualification in careers guidance at Paisley University, said that most careers guidance qualifications are targeted either at young clients or adults. "In pushing the two different strands together into an all-age service, the best way is to develop a more integrated approach through some kind of continuing professional development and to bring people with different qualifications together and look at what the needs are if they are going to work with a different client group. This needs to addressed nationally."
At another workshop, Anne Macintyre, development manager for the Opportunity Centre in Fife, said that after creating a one-stop service from a number of "key partners" in education, careers guidance, training and local economic development it has seen a 50 per cent increase in numbers benefiting from its services.
"It is important to establish mutual trust and respect among participating organisations and to develop common monitoring and evaluation systems so that different agencies are not duplicating one another's work," Ms Macintyre said. "It is also critical to create a single identity. If you are going to present something new to the public it has to be clear."