First Minister Jack McConnell revealed that the idea would form part of Labour's election manifesto, when he addressed members of the Amicus union last week. "There is a wealth of skills and experience among Scotland's retired craftsmen and women. And there are boys and girls throughout Scotland who want to learn a trade and could benefit from learning from wise and experienced older Scots.
"Labour has begun discussions with the trade unions who have a network of retired members, to see how we can harness those skills and experiences."
Mr McConnell said that a "modern army" of retired people could become mentors on a one-to-one basis, both in and out of the classroom.
He argued that this could lead to relationships similar to those formed between apprentices and craftsmen in the past. "Learning how to conduct yourself in the workplace, respect for your elders and ultimately respect for yourself are things lost from some of today's youngsters," he said.
Jim Docherty, depute general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers'
Association, said it would be "delighted" to look at the idea in more detail, but said it needed "very, very careful consideration. If this is another way to provide enough electricians and other trades people, there are probably other ways to do that."
Mr Docherty said people with a wide range of skills already came into the classroom under the supervision of trained teachers. Retired people might have useful skills, he said, but it should not be assumed they would pass them on effectively. "When I go to a night class to learn Russian, I would rather be taught by a trained teacher than a native Russian speaker."