Neil Munro reviews the latest training strategy for Scotland
A long-awaited pound;1 billion scheme to boost skills has been unveiled by Scottish Enterprise, the Government's economic development and training agency.
The agency aims to reinforce its youth and adult training over the next five years. It hopes to cut the number of unqualified school-leavers, emphasise craft and technician training and encourage more people to take Scottish Vocational Qualifications.
The scheme follows a skills forum set up by the Scottish Office in December 1995, which in turn was prompted by the Scottish Secretary's Training for the Future package issued last April.
Scottish Enterprise is eager to distance itself from the recent political controversy which erupted when the Government hacked pound;30 million from next year's budget (TESS, January 19).
Crawford Beveridge, Scottish Enterprise chief executive, says: "There is a need to reprioritise the importance of skills and training within the business agenda. To be a competitive player in today's global market-place, we must aspire to the standards of the best basic education and vocational training."
The agency, however, is only responsible for 6 per cent of the total Scottish investment in education and training, which it delivers mainly through the Training for Work and Skillseekers programmes.
The Scottish Enterprise document declares that "our competitors are not in an unassailable position and Scotland has certain key strengths to build on". It defines these as a powerful consensus on education, training and lifelong learning, high achievement, a transformed education and training infrastructure and improved links between education and industry.
Bob Downes, director of industry at Scottish Enterprise, says that "investment in the skills of our people remains one of the last great unexplored means by which Scottish businesses can steal a march on UK and international competition". Their efforts would be directed towards missionary work, getting the "best practice" message on to the shopfloor.
Evelyn McCann, head of skills at Scottish Enterprise, says business investment in training can be difficult to quantify. "We accept this and we will meet these concerns head on, quantifying wherever possible."
The new strategy will involve an analysis of Scotland's predominant industry sectors to find out what skills they require and quarterly monitoring of the position in these key areas of the economy.
Among the training milestones identified by Scottish Enterprise are: * Renfrewshire Enterprise's "profit through people" initiative linking training and business development;
* Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise scheme to train women in supervisory and management jobs for promotion;
* Lanarkshire Development Agency's programme to boost SVQs by funding more than 400 individuals in nearly 100 companies to become assessors and verifiers;
* The "Glasgow Works" scheme run by the city's development agency which provides a protected environment for training and work experience to ease the long-term unemployed back into jobs;
* The SVQ for the semiconductor industry jointly developed by the industry and education, which has now been adopted as an NVQ in England;
* Open and distance learning made available by Scottish Borders Enterprise to all adults who are eligible for Training for Work.