A major project has been launched to investigate how Scotland's young people can become better prepared for the world of work after they leave education.
A partnership of the Goodison Group in Scotland, a think-tank primarily funded by the banking sector, and Scotland's Futures Forum, the Scottish Parliament's think-tank, will examine over the next 16 months how Scotland could become a "world-leading learning nation by 2025".
The joint project on learning and skills in the 21st century will be led by Sir Andrew Cubie, who chairs the Goodison Group.
It had been set up because there were serious questions over the preparedness of education leavers for the world of work, and the extent to which their knowledge and skills would be applicable to the jobs of the future, he said.
Scotland had a history of educational excellence and had been world- leading, especially during the European Age of Enlightenment, when it excelled in "synergising social policy, science and commerce".
But most people today had to recognise that Scotland could not seriously trade on that reputation any longer, and had to act "fast and meaningfully" to position itself in the global marketplace as emerging economic powers rewrote the rules, he said.
"We must start to debate seriously the sum of our ambitions. Central to that debate is the world of education, skills and learning."
The two organisations will consult with teachers, politicians, employers, young people and those working in early years education to help them develop future strategies before they present their findings to the Scottish Parliament by the end of next year.
The project was about "being quite outrageous in the way we think", said Sir Andrew. "I suspect we will explore a few blind alleys and, in the language of today, some `wicked thinking' - but we will be the better for it."
A first perspective was provided by Janet Lowe, chair of the Scottish Skills Committee, a Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland committee which aims to improve the understanding of skills needs in the different areas of the economy.
For Scotland to become a world-leading learning nation, it had to meet four pre-conditions, she said:
- a world-leading learning nation had to be a prosperous one, which was why learning the skills for work had to be the primary, if not the sole, purpose of post-school learning;
- there should be flexible access to all learning provision in ways that encouraged people to continue learning throughout life;
- learners, employers, policy-makers and learning providers must take collective responsibility;
- a "multi-channel" careers service, ranging from face-to-face to online provision, should be available.