A campaign is underway to highlight the key role of Scotland’s colleges in powering regional economies by delivering the skilled workforce that businesses need.

The #LoveScotlandsColleges initiative is a week-long celebration of the crucial role that colleges across the country play in providing opportunities for individuals of all ages and backgrounds to gain essential skills and qualifications.

Each day this week will be themed around the value colleges provide, either to students, communities, businesses, employment opportunities or to the wider economy

For each topic, staff and students will be encouraged to share reasons as to why they love their college and share examples of the difference they’ve made.

Colleges are set to play a vital role in Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic as they work to ensure youngsters have the skills they need to succeed in the workforce of the future.

Each year, Scotland’s 26 colleges provide 70 million hours of teaching to just under a quarter of a million students, while delivering a quarter of all higher education in Scotland.

Scotland’s education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Our colleges are at the very heart of communities right across Scotland, providing opportunities for students to fulfill their potential and develop the skills needed for the workforce of the future.

“Throughout this week, colleges will be highlighting the really positive impacts they make, in education, skills, and training. They’re making a huge impact by providing the workforce we need in Scotland right now, but also in the future. Business, industry and the wider economy benefit hugely from a pipeline of graduates who are highly trained and highly motivated, working in all industries from renewables to construction, cybersecurity and finance, hairdressing and beauty, to our social care and health sectors.

“And this week is also about acknowledging the joy, the confidence and positive life experiences colleges bring into so many people’s lives. They really are the anchor in our community as learning hubs and as places with a huge history within our towns and cities. I would encourage people right across Scotland of all ages to explore the opportunities our colleges offer, in full time, part time and online courses. I’m delighted to support Love Scotland’s Colleges Week and I wish the staff and students a great week of celebration.”

Jim Metcalfe, chief executive, College Development Network (CDN), said: “Colleges are the beating heart of the communities they serve.

“They are vital to help the flow of highly skilled and professionally qualified new talent meet the needs of industry.

“Colleges help students to achieve their future goals; businesses to survive and thrive; regional economies to strengthen; and they are also helping Scotland to build a sustainable, net zero future.

“This campaign is a celebration of all that the sector does. A way to shout about the fantastic, transformative work undertaken by our colleges every day.”

Shona Struthers, chief executive, Colleges Scotland, added: “Colleges play a vital role in supporting Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic – supporting industry to rebuild and re-engage its workforce, maximising employment opportunities, and addressing the mental health and wellbeing of our communities.

“Online learning and teaching expertise in Scotland’s colleges, which was a necessity to help us work through the pandemic lockdown, has become a great asset for further education and will be as we move forward, providing daily support to students and their local communities.

“Colleges are more critical than ever, and I can’t wait to see even more inspiring examples of what the sector does through the #LoveScotlandsColleges campaign.”

Dorothee Leslie, vice-principal at Fife College, said: “Colleges play a hugely important role in Scotland, and the purpose of this campaign is to highlight some of the great work that we do.

“By asking students and staff to share their experiences of College, we hope to showcase the many ways in which we make a positive difference to the lives of those who study with us.

“We’re also keen to emphasise the key role we play in supporting local businesses, and the work we do in the local community.“We’re keen to hear from as many people as possible, so if you have a story to share about your time at College then get involved.

“By going online and searching #LoveScotlandsColleges you should get to see some great examples of what Fife College and other institutions from around the country have done to help transform lives.”