Scottish employers are more likely to recruit young people straight out of secondary school than from university or college, a report by the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils has shown.
Its survey revealed that 26 per cent of the 4,818 employers who had recruited took youngsters straight out of secondary school, while 20 per cent hired university graduates, and 19 per cent young people from colleges.
This marked a change from previous reports, where employers had preferred to take on young people who had gone to college or university, said alliance director Jacqui Hepburn.
"If an employer recruits someone at age 16 with good communication, numeracy and teamworking skills, who has got that really good, firm base in terms of attitude and soft skills, then to build on the technical skills is much easier than with somebody who is a bit older who has gone to college or university," she said.
An increased salary expectation for people with a college or university qualification may also play a role, she suggested.
According to the report, private sector companies more often recruited young people straight out of secondary school, with public sector employers inclined to take on people with college or university qualifications. A third of public sector organisations recruited from universities, while only about half that took on school-leavers.
"Things like apprenticeships are more likely to take place in the private sector than they are in the public sector," said Mrs Hepburn. "There is also within the public sector, rightly or wrongly, a bit of a push to take on graduates."
Overall, larger companies were more likely to take on college and university leavers than smaller companies. They were also more likely to recruit young people straight out of school than smaller companies, but here the gap was narrower.
Despite being more inclined to recruit young school leavers, employers still reported FE and HE leavers were better prepared for work. Some 52 per cent of employers said secondary school-leavers had been well prepared, while 60 per cent and 59 per cent respectively said college and university leavers had been well prepared for work.
"This is not about bypassing colleges," insisted Ms Hepburn. "If you go into an apprenticeship programme you have the inward training, which is on the job, but also the underpinning knowledge element, which must be delivered either by a college or a training provider.
"Actually, there should be a strengthening role for colleges in this area."