Almost all mainstream college lecturers will be expected to be qualified teachers by June 2003, under an ambitious three-year plan unveiled this week by the Scottish Further Education Funding Council.
Some 3,600 full-time permanent lecturers currently hold the teaching qualification in further education (TQFE). That represents 70 per cent of the total and the funding council wants 90 per cent coverage, or up to 4,800 staff, by 2002-03.
The council also wants 70 per cent of part-time staff to have at least an "introduction to teaching" credit within three years, which would involve between 6,000 and 8,200 lecturers, against 35 per cent now. A total of up to 13,000 FE teaching staff could therefore hold professional qualifications by 2003.
Some pound;1 million has been earmarked this year for general staff development, with another pound;3 million to train staff in information and communications technology.
Robert Beattie, the funding council's chairman, commented: "This is about saying that we view our teaching staff as absolutely essential - they are our single biggest asset."
Bruce Heil, FE convener of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, welcomed the move as "a step in the right direction".
Staff training in FE follows a parallel system at present. Professional development awards, certificated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, can be taken within the colleges, whle the main TQFE course is offered by the higher education institutions such as the Scottish School of FE, part of Strathclyde University. Mr Heil said that there would have to be effective credit transfer so that elements of a course do not have to be repeated.
He added: "The funding council's plans will require a rapid acceleration in the release of staff for training. This will be expensive and the council will have to ensure the resources to make this possible."
The council has already been told by Wendy Alexander, Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister, that staff development must create "a culture of continuous quality improvement".
College staff will be expected to develop skills for "promoting employability and enterprise through college courses".
Ms Alexander puts a premium on staff training in particular because of the added pressures which will be piled on colleges in the next three years. They will be expected to use information and communications technology more and more in classrooms, implement the Beattie report on disadvantaged youngsters and step up lecturers' expertise in dealing with adult literacy and numeracy.
In her letter of guidance to the council the minister added pointedly that one quid pro quo of the 50 per cent funding increase which colleges are receiving over five years must be "exemplary standards of leadership and management".