THE Executive's attempts to broaden the appeal of modern apprenticeships took on a new dimension last week when a scheme for female footballers was launched.
Ross County football club put up the idea for a modern apprenticeship in footballing and sports recreation and seven young women are set to take advantage of it.
They will be the first female professional footballers to follow any professional training, reflecting the strong commitment to training by Ross County, the area's largest employer of Skillseeker trainees.
The scheme was described as "a truly trail-blazing initiative" by Sandy Cumming, chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, whose Ross and Cromarty arm helped develop it along with the National Training Organisation for Sports Recreation and Allied Industries.
The club has its own full-time development officer for girls' and women's football - Fiona McWilliams, aged 22. She will play a leading role in the new scheme which, apart from boosting the apprentices' footballing and coaching skills, will give them training in first aid and the use of IT.
The scheme was kicked off at Hampden Park last week by Alasdair Morrison, Deputy Lifelong Learning Minister, who underlined its wider importance in highlighting "the diversity of apprenticeship opportunities in non-traditional sectors".
There had been early concern that modern apprenticeships were becoming a "men only" preserve. There are now 17,000 apprentices and the Executive is confident it can achieve its target of 20,000.