Key word is partnership

14th January 2000 at 00:00
THE committee has not yet agreed its final report, due in the spring, although John Swinney is cheered by the fact that its findings so far have commanded cross-party support.

The future of the local enterprise companies (LECs), whose record on training and secretive behaviour have been criticised by the FE colleges, will undoubtedly come under the committee's microscope. But Mr Swinney said it had not yet reached any conclusions.

The Scottish Further Education Funding Council has pressed the committee, at the very least, to consider recommending that LECs should be under a statutory duty to consult colleges - as is the case in reverse. Mr Swinney believes LECs should continue to act as the main agents for local economic development, although the Scottish Executive plans a review of the enterprise network.

He echoes Mr McLeish, however, in arguing that LECs must also "maximise partnerships".

The committee was told of inconsistencies between LECs in the implementation of national programmes. The age limit for inclusion in modern apprenticeships is 18 in the Borders, for example, nd 25 in Glasgow. Contracting arrangements with training providers, and the remuneration involved, also vary.

Insistence by LECs that the Skillseekers youth training programme which they fund should lead only to Scottish Vocational Qualifications also left MSPs unimpressed. This is too rigid, the committee says.

It is attracted to the Fast-Trac approach in Fife, which attempts to harmonise business needs and training as well as SVQ and National Certificate programmes. This will be investigated further in the second part of the committee's inquiry, which will concentrate on best practice in Fife, Tayside, Renfrewshire and Ayrshire.

Fife and Orkney also operate one-stop advice shops providing across-the-board information on training, jobs and careers guidance, which also appears to have impressed the committee.

The committee has, perhaps inevitably, homed in on shortcomings but it acknowledges that progress has been made, particularly in lifelong learning and workplace learning. "There has been a marked increase in partnership working between agencies," Mr Swinney says.

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