Colleges have a very clear understanding of the value of work placements. Only two months ago, I was delighted to launch the education into enterprise programme at Adam Smith College; I believe that Tricia Marwick was there. That is a £1.1 million initiative involving a consortium of colleges and the University of Abertay, which aims to introduce accredited work placement opportunities into many existing courses. It is being supported by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils.
The minister has alluded to the fact that we had a wonderful day at the education into enterprise project at the Levenmouth campus of Adam Smith College earlier this year. The minister is aware that the project will create 800 work opportunities for students in small and medium-sized companies, thanks to the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council funding that she mentioned. Does the minister agree that the education into enterprise project will provide a major boost for young people in Levenmouth and beyond? What plans are there to roll out the project elsewhere in Scotland so that other young people can have the benefits of it too?
I did indeed, along with Tricia Marwick, have the opportunity and the privilege of speaking to many of the young people and students who are benefiting from and participating in the programme. There are a lot of positive lessons to be learned, and I am sure that there is plenty of scope for best practice to be rolled out across the country.
It is important to say that a great deal of that type of work already exists. The £1.1 million for this project forms part of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council’s £4.7 million learning to work two programme for wider activities that was announced last year. A lot of work is going on over a range of activities in work experience-led initiatives.
What assessment has the Government made of the impact of the withdrawal of funding for school-college partnerships, particularly on the most vulnerable students who will not be able to access college placements?
Marilyn Livingstone is right to speak favourably of the school-college partnerships. The Government has asked colleges to focus provision in that area on the secondary 3 to secondary 6 age group, which is very much in order and in keeping with the delivery of the senior phase of curriculum for excellence.
It is important to recognise that for school pupils, particularly younger pupils, schools are the primary—although not the sole—provider of those experiences. However, there is another range of partners in the form of youth organisations and youth work to meet that need.
Colleges and local authorities are free to respond in their own way to local needs and to do work in that area with the younger age group if they so wish. However, members should be reassured that we are continuing to focus our activity on the S3 to S6 age group with regard to curriculum for excellence. That is consistent with long-standing practice and with the original guidance that the Labour and Liberal parties issued on the lifelong partners strategy.