Colleges, which are increasingly being judged on how "employable" they make their students, have been given new weaponry in their armoury this week as the audit and consultancy group Deloitte launched a skills training initiative in 15 Scottish colleges. It is part of a pound;2-million UK-wide investment programme.
The Deloitte Foundation has trained 35 teachers from the 15 colleges in the delivery of employability skills, and more than 500 students are now involved in programmes of study.
James Baird, senior partner at Deloitte in Scotland, said: "Employability skills, such as teamwork, com- munication, a willingness to learn and a positive attitude to work are increasingly seen by employers as important as technical aptitude."
Keith Brown, Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, praised the initiative, which he said had "grown in significance over the years and is providing hundreds of crucial opportunities during the current economic downturn".
Willy Roe, Scottish Commissioner for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said it aimed to challenge colleges and other providers "to put employability at the heart of everything they do", and demand that policy- makers and funding bodies "create the conditions to make this possible".
Perri Hopkinson, an employability trainer at Adam Smith College, believes the initiative offers lecturers "a structured programme of activity and resources with ongoing support". This has rubbed off on her students, she says. "Not only are they more confident and prepared for work, but their attitude is professional."
Gillian Rowan, an employability trainer at Coatbridge College, said the Train the Trainer course had "inspired and motivated" her to deliver employability skills properly.
Her new approach focuses on communication, teamwork and building confidence in students. "If I had to pick out the major change in my students, it would be in their attitude - they are so positive now and much more engaged.
"Lots of young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, don't have role models to instill in them the values I grew up with. This course focuses on the importance of those values and really improves students' self-awareness, self-worth and self-belief."
But some students needed convincing. Euan Wilson, a computing student at Adam Smith, said: "I'd already had jobs and done an employability skills course - I couldn't see the point in doing another one, and I know other students felt the same."
But, one year on, Euan has nearly completed the employability course and is going on to do an HND qualification: "I've noticed the difference in me since I started the course. Before, I always preferred to work on my own and keep myself to myself - but that's changed now and I'm so much more confident."
Julie Martin, a student doing a beauty course at Coatbridge College, admits she had not thought employability skills were important.
The skills programme did cover "boring things" like CVs, applying for jobs and interviews, she says, but also "a lot of other things I'd never thought about". Julie believes she is now "much better at communicating and working with other people: I believe in myself and my future."