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Funding system that undermined pledge of a place for all

Graeme Donald, assistant director of education at Scottish Borders, says that Skillseekers has failed to provide opportunities despite the Government's repeated commitment of a guaranteed training place because its funding system is geared to the workplace.

"A small to medium-sized employer cannot pay the price of a trainee's failure," Mr Donald says. "The point is that this is not a voluntary scheme. It is supposed to be a guarantee for everyone."

He argues that a sizable number of young people need training in a basic awareness of what work entails and to give them the confidence and motivation to tackle the tasks that employers demand.

Mr Donald has also expressed worries about the definition of "special training needs". He maintains that a large number of young people are not yet at a level where they even could complete a programme to a satisfactory level for the provider to get funding.

"There has to be a different level of funding. There has to be some recognition that the model of training that deals with output is different from that which deals with education," he says. "The current system does not deal with people. It only deals with output."

Michael Connarty, MP for Falkirk East, who speaks for Labour on training issues in Scotland, wrote to Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister, and received assurances that LECs had provision in their budget for "pre-Skillseekers" training.

But Mr Robertson maintained that special needs training should be workplace based.

Ian Dutton, director of education for the former Borders Region, expressed worries at the outset about the suitability of Skillseekers for many young people. "I was concerned about those who had shown little inclination to work and whose behaviour was far from ideal", Mr Dutton says.

"The point was not to convert them into fitters or whatever but to convince them that they are worth while. Whether you like it or not they are still going to exist."

Caroline Farquhar, chief executive of Workwise, a Glasgow based charity offering preparatory training for young people who have not reached the level where they can attempt Skillseekers qualifications, says funding inconsistencies are a nightmare.

She says: "For a special training needs foundation course you get paid Pounds 250 but for a level 1 VQ course you get paid Pounds 1,500. In one LEC you can get Pounds 250 for a foundation course but in another you can get Pounds 50.

"In some areas you get funded by the LEC on the basis of weekly unit cost but in others it is based on output."

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