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Be smart, be connected and be successful

The Lifelong Learning Minister unveiled the third leg of the Executive's strategy to create a "smart, successful Scotland" in which learning and skills will be the driving force.

Following the shake-up of the careers service into providing all-age guidance and the launch of Learndirect Scotland which matches learners to courses, Wendy Alexander announced on Tuesday a new strategy for the enterprise networks in Highland and lowland Scotland.

The intention, she said, was to create "a learning and connected Scotland which will succeed in the global economy". The enterprise agencies will be expected to build on the crucial importance of human capital and close the skills gap which is hampering the growth of many businesses.

The Executive's latest document, A Smart, Successful Scotland : Ambitions for the Enterprise Networks, states: "Education, while not narrowly focused on employability alone, must actively enable young people to take their part in a prosperous and competitive economy."

The document notes that the new national priorities for education are shaped to develop pupil skills and attitudes required for the world of work. It pledges to do more for 16-19s as they prepare to leave school, to support young people to stay on at school and to meet the target of having 20,000 modern apprenticeships.

Ms Alexander has long pointed to the discrepancy between Scotland's relatively good record in graduate output, compared with in-work and vocational training.

Scotland came second bottom of the league among 12 UK regions last year in the number of employees undertaking job-related training - just under 16 per cent.

The Executive's document comments: "Scotland has a weak record in workforce training. People and organisations must increasingly take responsibility for their own learning. The (enterprise) networks can support employers in skills improvement, help ensure the availability of appropriate training opportunities and collaborate with Learndirect Scotland in the promotion of individual learning accounts."

There are to be four targets against which progress with the learning and skills agenda is to be measured, along with four each for the two other legs of the strategy which are more business growth and making Scotland globally connected. These targets are to be devised by a new performance team which will get down to business this month.

The Executive's plans received a broad welcome. The Association of Scottish Colleges says they reflect its long campaign for priority to be given to skills and learning and for colleges to be treated as full partners by the enterprise agencies.

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