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Shout it out for global investment

Scotland needs to make its voice heard more loudly in the world if it is to attract more investment in the face of fierce competition, according to Microsoft founder Bill Gates during his visit here last week.

That message was linked to another about the importance of lifelong learning so a skilled workforce can raise its game and ensure that investment is turned into a competitive edge for Scotland, one echoed by Jack McConnell, the First Minister.

Mr Gates's vision, outlined as he signed a deal with the Scottish Executive to train teenagers not in education, employment or training in IT, was that the jobs in the new economy would be in the service and knowledge sectors.

"Collab-oration between business and universities will be where some cutting edge innovations are made," he said, but he urged Scotland to market its potential internationally to attract investment.

Mr McConnell, co-signatory to the agreement, threw his weight behind the mentoring of unemployed teenagers by business people to transform young people's prospects, an approach also championed by Mr Gates. "While we can spend money, more and more to tackle the problem, the big issue is to engage with successful people who can give their time."

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, who shared a platform with Mr Gates at the Microsoft Govern-ment Leaders Forum, was in good company when he embraced "the transforming power of technology" so that every youngster who finishes full-time education should be on the pathway to a career.

"These changes will be as dramatic as the industrial revolution," Mr Brown said. "Today, 100 million people are using online communities and these are the biggest youth clubs in the world."

The hallmarks of a Gordon Brown premiership were clearly spelt out - more incentives for teenagers to stay on in education, more skills academies, new routes into apprenticeships, more individual choices for learners, simpler routes from college to university and more work-based training.

Not to be outdone by Tony Blair's mantra, Mr Brown declared: "Education is my passion and my priority and will be given pride of place."

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