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Colleges say too early to judge off-the job training

Neither Perth nor Angus colleges has received any off-the-job training business from employers but Mr Mutch says, "it is early days".

There are supposed to be 26 days of training in one of the other three New Deal options - roughly one day a week. Employers must have a training plan, but they do not have to commit to training right away and they can do their own training in-house.

Employers are uncertain about the "recognised qualifications" training must be geared to, according to Mr Mutch. There are alternatives to Scottish Vocational Qualifications, he says. In some areas there are no SVQs - particularly for highly specialised placements. And very few SVQs can be achieved in six months, which puts the onus on employers to continue training when thesdeal2y take on a New Deal trainee permanently.

Mr Terrell of the Chamber of Commerce says that, contrary to recent publicity, "there is tremendous support and goodwill from employers. But they cannot create jobs for the sake of it. The challenge of making the young unemployed job-ready is all the greater when unemployment in the age group is falling. Then, by definition, you are left with the hard core, who are likely to have the most difficult profiles."

Michael Leech, the principal of Stevenson College in Edinburgh, is a member of the Government's New Deal task force in Scotland. He urges the long-term view. "There are still four years of this programme left under present proposals, and everybody has had to go at a cracking pace in the 11 months since it was announced."

Mr Leech said a gradual build up of employer interest was preferable to swamping the programme with places which took time to fill. "We have targeted some of the main companies, who can then hopefully influence their supply chains. All the signs are that the momentum will carry on."

Mr Burt at Angus College says that, despite Tayside's "pathfinder" experience, "it is too early to make judgements about the success or failure of New Deal. We will need to track students after they have left the programme before we are in any position to make pronouncements. Our 12 weeks of experience only makes us slightly better informed."

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