Nicola Sturgeon has set an ambitious but achievable target of 35,000 new homes every year by the middle of the next decade (The Herald, November 1). This target can be met, but only with a significant increase in the number of skilled professionals available to build these new homes.

To meet the demands of the projects already in development, the Scottish construction industry requires an estimated 7000 new recruits every year until 2011. The Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council (SBATC), registers 2800 new entrants each year and if we include new entrants to the electrical and plumbing trades, the total is consistently in excess of 4000. If we are to increase this to meet the requirements for 35,000 new-build homes then we must ensure the employment opportunities created are sustainable, and afford a quality four-year apprenticeship. In recent years we have seen far too many short-term training initiatives which do not provide the individuals with the skills and training to pursue a lifelong career in the construction industry. These training initiatives have been funded by the public purse and in many cases give false expectation to the participants. I hope the Scottish Government is ready to expand the funding for comprehensive apprenticeship training, including adults, through the new Skills Agency.

While there are a large number of opportunities for skilled professionals in the construction industry, some people are put off by attitudes which fail to value vocational training. It is vital that schools provide the option of vocational careers, and colleges and universities have the necessary capacity to deliver these courses. The return of the "sandwich" course would be most welcome, as it allows an element of work experience to the benefit of both the student and the employer.

The Scottish construction sector is ready, willing and able to deliver and we welcome the support of the government and Scotland's schools and colleges to ensure we produce the skilled employees our country needs.

Michael Levack, Chief Executive, Scottish Building Federation and Employers' Secretary, SBATC, Carron Grange, Carrongrange Avenue, Stenhousemuir.

While welcoming some of the headline measures, such as ending the sell-off of newly-built social housing, I can't help wondering if there's a touch of spin about elements of the Scottish Government's housing announcement.

In announcing a new target for overall housing output to rise to 35,000 by 2015, up from around 25,000 just now, ministers have alighted on an increase in new housing of 10,000 a year. Magically, 10,000 is the number of affordable rented homes being called for by leading housing organisations. But no-one should be fooled by the apparent coincidence.

Under the Scottish Government's new target, all 10,000 additional homes could be luxury apartments or six-bedroom villas and the target would still be met. This is a far cry from the low-cost housing that is needed to tackle the huge housing backlog. The closest the housing announcement gets to a specific target for affordable homes is suggesting that a few hundred extra council houses could be built using prudent borrowing and a generalised view that housing associations could increase their productivity.

It seems that those of us who make the case for 10,000 affordable homes will have to wait on Mr Swinney's budget in two weeks, rather than being satisfied with Ms Sturgeon's statement this week.

Patrick Harvie MSP, Scottish Green Party, Scottish Parliament.