Speaking at the New Future's Fund Conference at Murrayfield Stadium, the minister said: 'Today a strong economy and strong society are both sides of the same coin. Learning and skills are the real route to opportunity. But this requires breaking down the barriers that prevent individuals from realising their potential. Fail and we condemn people to a life of dependency and exclusion.
'Our new futures fund is making a real difference. It is providing the transition needed by those experiencing the difficulties of a chaotic lifestyle, helping them take meaningful steps towards the labour market.
'It has also encouraged skills providers to focus on filling the skills gap experienced by employers.'
This additional£2.5m will boost the availability of ICT training for unemployed clients, over the next two months. It will fund places on the European Computer Driving Licence scheme, which provides computer skills courses recognised by employers across Europe.
The minister said: 'I want to boost the delivery of the ECDL and other ICT qualifications across Scotland. This extra£2.5m creates a further 1,350 ICT training places for the unemployed in Scotland. In the future, ECDL and ICT modules will increasingly be core elements in the delivery of training for work.'
'We are on track and building the right foundations and core skills for employability in an inclusive, enterprising Scotland.
'Already we have seen another ground breaking initiative in the Edinburgh Park Project where the Pool Charitable Trust are leading the way in a partnership which is proactively and positively tackling skills shortages in the financial services and IT sectors. I am keen to see more of this type of demand-led initiative.
'I have also been impressed by the Irish 'FIT' for work project where the needs of the IT industry for new streams of recruitment are meet by training the long-term unemployed. The Executive is developing a similar programme for Scotland.'
The European Computer Driving Licence pilot in Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh & Lothian has been very successful, and places for future courses are in high demand. Lorna Aikman was one of the successful students.
Commenting on the scheme Lorna said: 'I had been out of the workplace for more than two years and in that time, computer packages had changed so much and IT skills had become important for every employer.
'The training programme gave me a greater understanding of the modern office working environment and helped to develop my computer skills. As a result, I now have a permanent job with better employment opportunities.'
The ECDL website can be found at www.ecdl.com/foundation/index.html.
The additional£2.5m will be spent under the banner of the Training for Work (TfW) programme delivered by the Enterprise Networks. Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise will receive£2,250,000 and£250,000 respectively.
The money will be used to create an additional 1,350 ICT training opportunities open to workless clients over the next two months. Activity will be concentrated on the delivery of the European Computer Driving Licence. From April 2001 ICT qualifications like ECDL will be funded through the Training for Work scheme.
TfW is the Scottish executive's training programme for long term unemployed adults. It aims to help people improve their work related skills through the provision of appropriate training and structured work activity in line with assessed needs. It is intended that, in future, all TfW clients will offered the opportunity to gain basic IT skills and that recognised ICT qualifications will be available through the programme. Around 14,000 adults participate in TfW each year.
ECDL Course at the University of Paisley
Actively working with the Scottish business sector, the University of Paisley has been a successful training provider in the Training for Work scheme for many years. By providing high quality training places to unemployed people on the Training for Work programme the university is bringing together those who want to get into the IT workforce with the companies that have the jobs to make it worthwhile.
Brian Cross, business development director for the computing and information systems division puts it simply: 'Microsoft, Cisco and Macromedia courses are in high demand by those in employment so the idea to offer them to the unemployed as a means of giving them a chance to get a job seemed sensible.'
On the recent Training for Work: ECDL programme some 23 unemployed trainees got training and 20 of them went straight into a job placement from the course. Two of these have already been offered permanent contracts and others are negotiating them as we speak. This really is training for work.
Recent trainee Michael McLaughlin comments: 'I was looking to get back into work after a hip replacement and before this I had been a butcher. I wanted to learn about computer networking and the Paisley course more than answered my questions. Now my placement is giving me much needed practical experience and the chance to work with others in the community who want to learn about IT.'
Trainee George Newall was just as positive: 'I knew if I could only get the right kind of training I could land the right kind of IT job, through Training for Work I found it! I was one of the first trainees to land a full-time job from the course and I'd recommend it to anyone. The Training for Work scheme at Paisley University really has changed my life.'
Funding from Scottish Enterprise Renfrewshire funds the TFW programme at Paisley. A new intake to the programme has just started with another 24 unemployed people being given the chance to pick up these sought after skills.