Learning ministers

2nd February 2001 at 00:00
The Scottish Executive is to be congratulated. Now there's a thing in these turbulent times. For years it seemed the only idea in town, as far as post-school education was concerned, was "university for all". Well, not quite. But the relentless emphasis on ever-widening access to higher education made it seem that way.

Wendy Alexander, the Lifelong Learning Minister, has now grasped the importance of the alternative in her latest policy statement released this week (page six). Scotland's problem is not the production of high-quality graduates or even the output from the schools but our lack of skilled craftsmen and technicians. Last week's warning from a North Ayrshire engineering boss about the extreme shortage of good engineers is a timely warning.

Ms Alexander is certainly not the first politician to diagnose the deficiency; indeed her colleagues south of the border gave a nodding recognition to the problem last week with the announcement of vocational GCSEs. But workplace training must be seen as important for its own sake, and there is a dichotomy. Ms Alexander herself has launched the slogan "the better the learning, the better the earning". Theunmistakable message is that graduates do better. This is not calculated to embed the value of shopfloor skills. Academic drift cannot be allowed to become the name of the game.

None the less there appears at last to be a national strategy coupled with serious money, after years of talking about the problem. The careers companies will start serving Scots of all ages, Learndirect Scotland will stimulate and aim to meet their training or learning needs and the enterprise networks will refocus on the skills that are required with the help of the new Future Skills Unit. That ought to be a recipe for success. The enterprise companies have been told firmly that they can no longer freelance and must work alongside the education agencies, which will be music to the ears of the further education colleges in particular.

The one caveat we would enter is that a distinction must still be retained between education and training. The school years clearly cannot avoid the challenge of employability but they also have to be about more than that, as indeed lifelong learning should be. If that message is absorbed, then we really will have a national strategy.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now