Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, plans to boost training links between further education colleges and local companies as part of Scotland's strategy following the White Paper on business competitiveness.
In a keynote address to the Further Education and Enterprise Forum, sponsored by The Times Higher Education Supplement, the Scottish Office Education Department, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Mr Lang unveiled proposals which will shortly be published in a consultation paper, Training for the Future.
Mr Lang, who took over training responsibility for Scotland from the Department of Employment in April, pledged to set up a fund towards equipment costs in further education colleges, to be distributed by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise through the local enterprise councils.
"Further education colleges are important centres of training, and equipment costs can act as a barrier to provision particularly in areas of high technology," said Mr Lang, who wants to see the development of modern apprenticeships within the youth credit or Skillseekers initiative for school leavers.
Mr Lang also plans to boost funding to improve careers guidance and train careers officers, particularly for college students and 16 and 17-year-old pupils.
John Ward, chairman of the Confederation of British Industry Scotland, said that the United Kingdom had only half the number of vocationally qualified people of its main competitors. A comparatively huge number of people had no vocational qualifications at all.
* Scotland's 43 further education colleges generated almost Pounds 603 million within the Scottish economy in 1993/94, according to Iain McNicoll, professor of applied economics at Strathclyde University.
Professor McNicoll, in a report commissioned by the SOED and Scottish Enterprise, said there were 10,700 full time equivalent jobs in the further education sector itself, and that for every 100 of these, another 79 jobs were generated in other Scottish industries.