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'It's not just this job but the next'

Mark Batho, from the Scottish Executive, admitted there was a considerable way to go to convince employers about the value of training. While 60 per cent of employers are regularly found to have business plans, only 30 per cent have training plans.

"So there is little integration of training and skills with business plans," he said.

He said the Executive looked to the sector skills councils, learndirect scotland and the local enterprise companies, backed by business learning accounts, to ensure that workforce learning and training was given greater priority. Trade unions were also playing a pivotal role in selling the idea of training to employees - the message being that a skilled and motivated workforce is essential to give firms a competitive edge.

Mr Batho said the role of the Executive was to ensure there was not "a leaky pipeline of support".

Alan Sinclair, the senior director of skills and learning at Scottish Enterprise, said work-based learning had to recognise that "different people learn in different ways, and many learn better in context".

Vivienne Brown, head of career planning at Careers Scotland, said work-based learning had to be clear on one question: "Who is the customer - the individual employee or the employer or both, and how is that achievable?"

Mr Kelly agreed it was important to get the balance right between "work-directed and employer-driven learning because it's not just about this job but also about the next one".

Mr Batho said work-based learning had to have a mix of what was good for the employer and what was good for the employee. But he added: "It is reasonable to expect that an employer who invests in training does so for the benefit of his business, so that employees grow with the business and the business grows with them."

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