Professor Fairley and colleague Andy McArthur write in the journal Scottish Affairs that data on VET "are at best patchy, and not adequate for strategic planning or direction. It is not clear how much the state spends on VET in Scotland, and to what effect".
The absence of facts and figures makes VET "quite unlike any other sector of mainstream education." So the Parliament ought to establish better data gathering systems. Although that would take time, it is essential if new goals are to be set for spending, training activities and outcomes.
Professor Fairley and Mr McArthur also say that MSPs may need to discuss whether VET belongs to education policy or to industry, as the previous Scottish Office appeared to want.
They point out that the role of the state is largely confined to assisting employers with financing training, pump priming, a coherent qualifications framework, and encouraging employers and individuals to use the framework of national vocational targets. But recently the Westminster Government has added its own layer of initiatives, such as the New Deal and the individual learning accounts due by April.
The Parliament will need to consider how far it wants Scottish VET to be distinctive, and how to ensure compatibility with the rest of the UK and Europe.