Despite its criticism of current approaches to training, Labour in Scotland will not abandon the Government's education and training targets. FE colleges and other training providers would face a tough supervisory regime in delivering them if the party wins the election.
This was made clear by George Robertson, the Shadow Scottish Secretary, in a keynote speech on training delivered to industrialists last week in Glasgow, which stuck remarkably closely to the language of Government policy.
Mr Robertson declared: "Quite simply, and brutally, Scotland must have a highly skilled, well motivated workforce to survive never mind thrive against ferocious international competition. We have to be the best to beat the rest."
This is also the language of John Ward, chairman of the Advisory Scottish Council on Education and Training Targets, which Mr Robertson said had identified "realisable but essential targets".
"Targets look good, they occasionally concentrate the mind, and real energy goes into devising a million excuses for why we never quite achieve them, " Mr Robertson said. "I am determined, with a force I can only hint at, to meet these skills targets and that force runs so deep in me that I am simply not willing to contemplate failure."
Labour would review and update the targets annually, with "quarterly monitoring to ensure that those who are charged with delivery recognise that this is an area of crucial importance to the delivery of Government economic policy".
Mr Robertson promised to set up a task force of industrialists, educationists and employee representatives, chaired by the Scottish Office industry minister. The group would have a "rapid response unit" of training experts to supervise FE colleges, local enterprise companies and other training providers with a quality assurance team to monitor every training programme.
The national enterprise agencies would report directly to the industry minister on the achievement of the targets under Labour's plan and will be expected "to act with the same vigour and excitement on achieving the Scottish skills revolution as they do in the quest for inward investment".
Local enterprise companies that fail to deliver could face a partial loss of control over their training budgets which would be assigned to the rapid response unit.
Mr Robertson said the plans would help create "a much deeper interface between industry and schools".