Opportunities for all is an explicit commitment by this Government to an offer of a place in learning or training to every 16 to 19-year-old in Scotland who is not engaged in employment, education or training. It is being delivered across Scotland by local authorities and their partners, including Skills Development Scotland, colleges, third sector providers and Jobcentre Plus.
This year, local authorities in the West Scotland region received £599,241 specifically to support the delivery of opportunities for all, including 16+ learning choices and activity agreements. Additionally, North Ayrshire Council and Renfrewshire Council, both of which are in the West Scotland region, are receiving £1.6 million of the extra £9 million funding available this year to support youth employment. Those authorities are also benefiting from £19.8 million of funding from the European social fund until September 2013 and £4.3 million of funding from the European regional development fund until July 2014.
What assurances can the cabinet secretary provide to the college sector that the opportunities for all policy will be maintained during college reorganisation and that reorganisation provides an opportunity for the sector to consider running courses that have been scrapped or which have the potential to generate longer-term and stable employment?
Under opportunities for all, all 16 to 19-year-olds are guaranteed an offer of a place in learning or training if they are not already in education or a job. Achieving the policy’s aims will involve a contribution from all parts of the post-16 system; as colleges will be an important part of that, we have prioritised places for 16 to 19-year-olds. The regionalisation of our colleges will encourage a far closer alignment with economic need and the delivery of skills that will indeed lead to longer-term and stable employment. I also note that the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill, which takes us a step closer to that ambition, has been published today.
I congratulate the Government on its vision, but what methods are used to ensure equity of standard with regard to places on college courses that do not offer either apprenticeships or full training but which are part-training in nature? Who controls the standard in that respect?
That is a very good question. A variety of people are involved in verifying and ensuring a constant standard for college courses. However, certain college courses spread among a number of different colleges are of a different grade and standard. This morning, I had a very interesting discussion with the chairs of the Lanarkshire colleges, and one of the issues that they are looking at in their federation proposal is a means of ensuring a common standard across the colleges in precisely the sort of course that the member has highlighted. Indeed, another benefit of the regionalisation proposal is that it provides a way of driving up standards.