Armed with skills

October 3rd, 2011

It was a delight to share in their pride and enthusiasm.

I had the honour recently of addressing the graduation ceremony at the James Watt College and I was pleased to be able to join in the celebrations with those proud students.

It was terrific to see these ambitious young people, armed with their new skills, realise their potential and set off into the world of work, full of enthusiasm.

Whether they had gained the qualifications needed to get into university, acquired a skill that would help them into a trade or gained access to a profession, these college graduates had invested in their future and were hopefully set to reap the benefits.

Sadly, I fear the numbers of graduates are set to get smaller and the opportunities further education affords will get more remote for young people in this community.

This year, the James Watt College suffered a cut of £5.7 million, resulting in the loss of over 100 jobs.

Now the Scottish Government is piling on the misery by enforcing another round of cuts in the college sector, this time totalling more than 20 per cent.

Locally, this could force a merger with Reid Kerr College, threatening the local identity of a college that has been established in this community over 100 years.

While staff will understandably be concerned, the real losers are the students who will have to fight for less places and face cuts to teaching hours which could compromise the standard of their learning.

That’s the argument we have been making as this was debated at the Scottish Parliament this week, although it fell on deaf ears with this SNP Government.

The cuts to further education make no sense at a time when youth unemployment has increased by 89 per cent over the last four years.

If we are to get young people working, we have to allow them to gain an edge to crack a tough labour market.

Those are willing to learn new skills should have the opportunity to do so and that means investing in colleges, not enforcing cuts that threaten their very existence.