The architect of the enterprise network has challenged schools to prevent the creation of a youth underclass. Bill Hughes, chairman of Grampian Holdings and the Tories' Scottish treasurer, said a significant number of young people with special needs might not drop out of society if teachers worked on instilling positive attitudes.
Mr Hughes, president of Work Wise, the special needs training organisation, said 17.5 per cent of Scottish Enterprise's total training budget went on helping young people towards basic qualifications.
Surveys of potential employers of less able students in Glasgow and Edinburgh had shown that they rated enthusiasm, honesty, reliability, willingness to learn and good verbal communication above being a member of a youth organisation, vocational qualifications, well presented CVs and work experience.
"Attitudinal skills will always predominate in this client group as their job opportunities will mainly be in the service sector. Here, interpersonal skills matter most," Mr Hughes said. He questioned the education system's commitment to this area when it was geared to academic success, neglected vocational education and overlooked opportunities for young people.
"The obsession with university education results in people squeezing themselves into a model that just does not suit them, whereas they could be achieving excellence in a vocational field and enjoy the self-esteem that goes with that success," Mr Hughes said.