The Skillseekers vocational training programme for 16-25s is to be phased out to make way for an expanded system of modern apprenticeships, ministers are proposing. They dismiss fears this could devalue apprenticeships.
A consultation paper issued last week suggests that MAs, in which around 32,000 people are involved, should be extended to Scottish Vocational Qualification level 2 (equivalent to Standard grade 1-2 or Intermediate 2 A-C). At present, they start at SVQ level 3, on a par with Highers.
The sector skills councils back the moves, although a Scottish Enterprise study three years ago argued that "blurring the distinction between Skillseekers and MAs is likely to undermine the value of MAs, rather than enhance the value of Skillseekers".
The Scottish Executive's proposed answer is to do away with Skillseekers, which it believes has become tarnished as a brand and has negative connotations, in contrast to modern apprenticeships which are highly regarded by employers and young people.
The consultation paper says SVQ level 2 is the correct level of qualification for many jobs.
It points out that not all modern apprenticeships are viewed as having equal value, particularly where the time taken to complete them can vary enormously - less than 18 months for a customer service apprenticeship, for example, to around four years for one in construction.
The executive is also seeking views on whether all the five core skills (communication, working with others, problem-solving, IT and numeracy) should be included in all modern apprenticeships. Some sectors argue that not all the skills are relevant to them and ministers are looking at the possibility of an exemption in such cases.
Apprenticeships currently have employed status and the executive suggests this should continue with the absorption of Skillseekers.