Henry McLeish, Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, last week announced a long-awaited review of careers services companies and suggested they could develop a wider role.
Mr McLeish is setting up a 12-strong independently chaired inquiry to report by next May. He told The TES Scotland that a key aim will be the feasibility of "all-age guidance services".
Pressed on whether additional funds would be available to expand services, Mr McLeish replied: "If a case can be made, I want to look at it."
He assured representatives of the Association of Careers Services Companies in Scotland that there would be no structural reorganisation. The existing 17 companies, which receive pound;21.5 million a year from the Scottish Executive, will stay in control.
Ed Gillespie, who chairs Grampian Careers and is the careers companies' spokesman, said: "The flavour is more about expansion than contraction."
Mr McLeish said: "Careers guidance is a critical element of this Government's priorities for enterprise, lifelong learning and social inclusion. We have to ensure the careers service is developing alongside initiatives in education and labour market trends. We also want to ensure that companies themselves are equipped to provide the best and most appropriate service."
Funding for adult guidance has so far been fragmented, with services developing piecemeal. Cash for expanding services beyond the core work of advice to students in schools and colleges has come from diverse sources such as the European Social Fund, the New Deal scheme for young adults and local enterprise companies.
Dermot Dick, vice-chair of the careers' companies association and chief executive of Career Development Edinburgh and Lothians, said: "There is a unmet demand for guidance services throughout Scotland. We have had more than 1,500 calls to our local learning line since it was established in January. A lot of calls have come from people in employment who are looking for a career change or up-skilling."