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New bid to bring more on board

Skillseekers has proved a hit in Scotland with the number of vocational qualifications doubling, reports Neil Munro

Scottish Enterprise is to draw up an action plan to step up the involvement of school-leavers who are not joining the programme or are leaving early. The new deal initiative to get 18 to 24-year-olds off welfare and into work is intended to appeal to refuseniks and infect them with the training bug.

But Skillseekers is failing to attract 40 per cent of "economically active" leavers - those who do not stay on in education. Mrs McCann suggests this could be because of peer pressure, lack of parental or school encouragement and employer reluctance to take on leavers.

The research found that 24 per cent of trainees - 8,400 - drop out of the programme without gaining a qualification. There were wide-ranging reasons including poor training at a low VQ level, insufficient support, uncertainty over the job or training and failure to land their first choice of training. Early leavers were also less likely to have employed status and more likely to have special needs.

The report recommends improved initial advice and guidance. The study found that "a significant proportion" of guidance teachers steered young people towards Skillseekers for negative reasons, usually because they could not be persuaded to stay on in education.

"This would suggest guidance teachers do not fully understand the benefits of Skillseekers," the report states, "and this is further evidenced by the fact that less than half of the young people had heard of the modern apprenticeship, which is targeted at more ambitious young people." The study also says more needs to be done to convince employers to take part.

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