New Minister for Further Education engages with essential skills


Scotland’s new minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science visited our Coatbridge Campus recently to talk about the importance of essential skills.

Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP gave the keynote speech at a College Development Network conference.

The event, entitled Essential Skills for Education and Employment, was attended by more than 160 delegates drawn from colleges, charities, schools and agencies all over Scotland.

In her first engagement in the further education sector since taking up the post, Ms Somerville told delegates: “Essential skills make individuals enterprising, adaptable and resilient.

“They are at the core of our entrepreneurs, our innovators and our critical thinkers.

“These are the types of skills that will make applicants stand out in today’s job market.”

The event was one of 12 that took place across Scotland as part of College Development Network’s two-week-long ‘Inspiring Ideas’ emporium.

Delegates heard from 16 speakers in addition to attending a range of workshops within our 101 Park Street conference venue.


The workshops were based on ‘best practice’ examples that have helped equip learners with skills needed for the workplace.

After her speech, Ms Somerville had an informal chat with pupils from Trinity High School in Rutherglen as well as students of North East Scotland College in Aberdeen and New College Lanarkshire.

New College Lanarkshire accounting student Michelle McCuaig, 31, shared her experience of life as a mature student.

The mum-of-two from Airdrie said: “The Minister was really down-to-earth and she put everyone at ease.

“I was selected because I’m a class rep. It’s been great being back at college and I’m glad to have found something that I enjoy.”

Trinity High S6 pupil Alan Babu told Ms Somerville of his involvement in Skills Development Scotland’s My World of Work website.

The 17-year-old said: “She was really interesting and it didn’t feel like I was talking to a Minister at all.

“She asked good questions and we were able to answer them.

“I was one of the ambassadors for My World of Work, which is a website for finding out about the skills and qualities that you have.”

Principal Martin McGuire added: “New College Lanarkshire was pleased to welcome so many people committed to improving opportunities for students all over Scotland to our Coatbridge Campus.

“The College is passionate about equipping our learners with the essential skills and knowledge needed to forge successful careers.

“In sharing ideas with a variety of learning providers and employers at events such as this, we are building on our commitment to make our learning environment as relevant and responsive to the demands of the jobs market as possible.”

The Scottish Government’s definition of essential skills includes literacy, numeracy, communication, problem solving, employability and team working.


Candy Munro, acting Chief Executive of College Development Network (CDN), said: “We were delighted to welcome the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville, early in her new role.

“The work of CDN’s Essential Skills and Volunteering Network is focused on those skills that prepare individuals for employment.

“This is why it set up a short life working group to explore how essential skills could be embedded across all colleges to encourage the development of skills as the responsibility of all lecturers, whatever their subject discipline.”

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