Alan Sinclair, senior director of the national development agency Scottish Enterprise, has condemned a widespread "snobbish mentality" that values only degrees or, at a stretch, higher national courses.
Mr Sinclair, opening the Scottish Further Education Unit's national conference yesterday, said there was an urgent need for high-status vocational training. He said: "It is time that we gave proper value and status to experience backed up by learning. Most of us learn by doing."
He speculated there would be much more work-based learning in future as many companies faced change and needed to reorientate their staff's skills. "Further education has in the past and present supported this method. As our economy changes, so too will the demand increase," he said.
The conference comes just as the Association of Scottish Colleges has revealed fears of a standstill in college funding in real terms for the next two years. The recent report by Audit Scotland suggests that 37 of Scotland's 43 colleges were expected to have deficits totalling £14 million by July next year.