SNP to chart a new course on vocational routes
Education secretary Michael Russell is expected to announce a new approach to vocational education and training within the next few weeks.
He told delegates at the SNP national conference last week in Perth that his training plans - to be carried out in partnership with business - would be the "final piece in the educational jigsaw".
The SNP government had overseen a substantial set of reforms across various sectors of education, but until now, vocational education had not been addressed.
But he would make an announcement soon to do exactly that - deliver "a vocational training system that is shaped by needs - present and future - of our country", he said.
"It is not enough to just invest in our young people, in the skills and talent of our future workforce, and in the places where they learn. We must also do all we can to support businesses and job creation," he told the conference.
The new vocational education programme would firmly establish parity of esteem and offer "not `something for nothing' but something for everyone".
Mr Russell also defended the government's controversial further education reforms, saying they would "free colleges from the false market ideology" of the old structure which had been put in place by former Tory Scottish education minister Michael Forsyth, "pitting college against college in competition with each other".
His reforms would free colleges from the "wasteful, inefficient, right- wing approach that had become a road block to delivering the courses students need and the skills employers look for", he said.
And he repeated his promise that the government would maintain the number of places in colleges "even while we drive forward with reform".
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont had decided to defend this "false market", he added.
She had decided to "defend the waste, defend the legacy of Tory rule, defend the unaccountable fiefdoms that grew up in some places, defend a system that divided to rule staff and imposed regional pay bargaining, and defend a system that stigmatised college education and eliminated parity of esteem with other educational sectors", he said.
He added: "It is little surprise Labour and the Tories criticise these reforms - they open up colleges to their students and staff; they focus on employability; and they give confidence and new opportunity. Labour don't want that - they wear Lord Forsyth's clothes now."