Education secretary Michael Russell is confident that the Scot-tish Government's target of 7,500 new apprenticeships will be reached.
Mr Russell would not be drawn on how many apprenticeships had been created since the target was hammered out during budget negotiations with Labour last year, nor would he set a date, but he told The TESS that it was on course to be achieved. The additional apprenticeships represent a 73 per cent increase and will cost an estimated pound;16 million.
Mr Russell was at this week's National Jobs Summit, on the day he announced that up to 4,000 employers businesses in Scotland would be offered pound;1,000 to take on an apprentice, at a cost of pound;4m between now and the end of March.
CBI Scotland was "greatly encouraged" by the move, having found in a survey that more than half of firms favoured such an incentive scheme.
The Education Secretary reinforced the call on further education colleges to help the jobs market recover from recession, insisting they had the financial wherewithal and available places to step up their efforts. The SNP Government has made pound;28m available to colleges to create 3,000 more student places.
But the scale of the task facing the country was made clear by Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy. If previous recessions were any guide, the jobs market might not be fully back on track until 2014, or even 2027.
He added, however, that other measures suggested the situation was not as bad as previously. The fall in employment, for example, was not as sharp as in past recessions.
Mr Murphy and First Minister Alex Salmond both used the jobs summit, held at Glasgow's John Wheatley College, to make upbeat announcements.
Mr Murphy revealed that 300 jobs had been created through the Future Jobs Fund. Mr Salmond said that pound;34m from the European Social Fund would help 28,000 people "gain or sustain" employment through skills development, as well as creating 193 jobs.
Projects to be supported by the ESF money include:
l Renfrewshire Community Planning Partnership's Children in Transition from Youth to Work, which will be given just over pound;1m to bridge the gap from school to FE and the workplace.
l North Highland College's Enterprise Sells, whose pound;153,000 share will support potential entrepreneurs.