The small business sector is a key potential ally, given that 98 per cent of Scotland's employers have fewer than 50 people on the payroll.
John Downie, Scottish parliamentary officer for the Federation of Small Businesses, believes the arrival of the University for Industry and its Learndirect Scotland service marks a sea change. "One telephone number and one website has a clear advantage for hardpressed businesses instead of having to make several calls to find out who can provide what."
Mr Downie said businesses are interested in training which is focused on the tasks to be done. "What they need are short, sharp bite-size chunks of learning. The old approach will not do. If you are running a 10-man business and one member of staff goes off for extended training and then someone calls in sick, you've lost 20 per cent of your workforce."
The public sector union Unison has also been brought on board and is appointing up to 30 lifelong learning advisers with the help of a pound;36,000 grant from the new Scottish Trade Union Learning Fund.