Deep frustration has marked the training relationship between further education colleges and the local enterprise companies, according to evidence submitted by the Association of Scottish Colleges to Government reviews of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Colleges have been "frustrated at having to deal and reach agreement with each LEC on an individual basis", the association complains. John Sellars, its chief officer, told The TES Scotland that it was "daft" that the LECs had built up unused surpluses in their training budgets, and had allowed Donald MacKay, chairman of Scottish Enterprise, to cut Pounds 30 million at the behest of the Government.
Mr Sellars said that relationships varied between LECs and their local colleges. Fife College and Fife Enterprise had introduced a Fast Track Skillseekers project that was a model for elsewhere in the country. Telford College had reported fruitful links with Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise.
But most colleges had experienced a "less than satisfactory" relationship. That was partly because early in their five-year history the two national bodies and the LECs were seen to favour private sector training providers.
Mr Sellars hoped that matters were improving. Scottish Enterprise and HIE appeared to recognise that colleges as "engines for change" had an important role if the national training targets were to be met.
At the heart of the problem, the association states, has been the notion of the link between LECs and colleges on training schemes as that of "customer and client".
Partnerships should be developed even although that would mean LECs having to "relinquish some control. But a common approach focused on the college would reduce bureaucracy and the administrative burdens." Mr Sellars added that the opportunities offered by bringing together the Scottish Office education and industry departments had not yet been exploited.