GLASGOW'S ground-breaking vocational training programme for pupils could lead the way in closing Scotland's skills gap.
The programme, which in its second year has attracted 1,100 second and third-year pupils from 29 secondaries, was spotlighted at a national seminar in the city last week. It allows young people to opt into vocational preparation as an alternative to the full Standard grade diet.
The seminar, hosted by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, was told by Stephen Boyle, director of Future Skills Scotland, that a survey last year concluded that skills deficiencies generally involve "softer" skills such as teamworking, communication and problem-solving. Technical skills pose much less of a problem.
Mr Boyle said: "It is often argued that by the time people get into the workforce it is too late and that we need to start working on those softer skills in the home and in the school.
"One of the potential strengths of the Glasgow initiative is that it introduces people at a younger age to aspects of the world of work and starts to develop in them not just the technical skills but the other softer skills and competencies they need to succeed in the workplace.
"These are already in the curriculum for the various national awards but it looks to me as if the Glasgow model could be a way of more effectively imparting these skills than we have at the moment."
Gordon Rodgers, qualifications manager with the SQA, said a Scottish Progression Award (SPA) was being developed which would be more suited to school-based programmes than Scottish Vocational Qualifications.
"Moves are taking place to put SPAs into the curriculum through local initiatives such as Glasgow's, though ultimately the decision as to whether it becomes embedded in the curriculum is up to the schools and the local authorities," Mr Rodgers said.
"What we can do is to say that, if you want to access high quality vocational training in a structured programme, we are there to support it with appropriate qualifications."
David Fraser, chief executive of the SQA, said that he hoped the Glasgow example "will be followed elsewhere in Scotland and we certainly want to help in making that happen".
Moira Carberry, assistant headteacher at St Margaret Mary's Secondary in Castlemilk, who co-ordinates the vocational programme in the school, said pupils benefited from "escaping the strait-jacket of eight Standard grades". They had more opportunities to shine and could gain extra qualifications and references.
Liz Angus, pupil support co-ordinator with Perth and Kinross, told The TES Scotland: "I liked the examples of good practice I saw in Glasgow's vocational programme and the fact that it can be offered to all abilities.
The Glasgow model could possibly work in Perth and Kinross."