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If you've recently spent time with someone in their late teens, trying to chart their future education and training, you'll probably sympathise with James Withers and his son, going into his final year at school.

Perhaps it's because there's so much choice. There may never have been a better time to be a job-seeker.

But as James Withers and Son discovered, when he was asked to report back to Scottish ministers on the "skills landscape", it doesn't always feel that way. It's more likely to be an alphabet soup of acronyms, and public agencies that look like they ought to be some help but... well, they just aren't.

Choosing courses and what are officially known as "positive destinations" - that is, having something to do after leaving school - tends towards going to university if you can. That's not only Mr Withers' view: you can overhear that discussion anywhere.

Countries with a more successful track record in skilled workforces have a more balanced approach to what we tend to call vocational skills, including Germany and Switzerland. Singapore offers an example in "skills mastery", in which you continue to develop skills throughout life.

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