In recent days, politicians on both sides of the border have talked about their support for more apprenticeships. However, not everyone appears to be talking about the same thing, and the differences between apprenticeships and vocational training are in danger of getting lost in the arguments over numbers and targets.
Apprenticeships are the "Rolls-Royce" of vocational training. They work because they provide on-the-job training which immerses the trainee in the workplace, supplemented by academic study in college.
Vocational training has a place, but it will not solve the skills gap which exists in the construction sector and others. In recent years, we have seen far too many short-term training initiatives that do not provide the individuals with the skills and training to pursue a lifelong career in the industry. These training initiatives have been funded by the public purse and in many cases give a false expectation to the participants.
A new approach which prioritises quality skills training is crucial. Every youngster should be able to choose an apprenticeship in the same way they can choose to go to university or college. Hopefully, Scotland's political parties can find the common ground which can make this a reality.
Michael Levack, chief executive, Scottish Building Federation (and employers' secretary of the Scottish Building Appenticheships Training Council).