Education working for all: developing Scotland's young workforce

Final report from the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce, with 39 recommendations for enhancing vocational education.

Education And Training


It is clear that Scotland, and indeed the UK, have traditionally focused on academic education and school performance measures have reinforced this. An oft repeated assertion from many of those contributing to our deliberations was that our education system has largely focused on 50% of the pupils i.e. those with academic aspirations. [10] We also know that those with the lowest levels of qualification are at the greatest risk of unemployment. [11]

A consistent theme in discussion with many parents was that those pupils not academically orientated going into 4 th year school who don't want to leave school because there are no jobs, but who see no pathway or destination, drift, with no real purpose, fast becoming bored and frustrated.

This doesn't have to be the case. The introduction of Curriculum for Excellence in primary schools and in S1-S3 is already making a difference as a new approach to teaching and learning is helping pupils to develop many of the skills and attributes they will need to be successful in their working lives.

Curriculum for Excellence by its nature provides the opportunity for a more balanced and inclusive approach to academic and vocational education with the potential to blend the two to the needs of individual pupils.

We can however go further. Through ambitious partnership between our schools and colleges, many of our young people not inclined to pursue an academic pathway could leave school with high level vocational qualifications which have strong currency in the labour market. By significantly enhancing the vocational content of the offer to pupils, we would follow the example of the best performing European countries in terms of youth employment without splitting young people off into separate streams at school age.

Senior Phase Vocational Pathways

Recommendation 1: Pathways should start in the senior phase which lead to the delivery of industry recognised vocational qualifications alongside academic qualifications. These pathways should be developed and delivered in partnership with colleges and, where necessary, other training providers. Their delivery should be explicitly measured and published alongside other school performance indicators.

  • Over the course of the senior phase young people should have the option to study for a National Certificate from S4 onward and where appropriate to progress onto a Higher National Certificate in S5 and S6 alongside academic subjects. Other qualifications with labour market currency should also be included in the range of vocational qualifications offered.
  • Within the senior phase, young people should also have the option to commence training and education which is relevant and contributes to Modern Apprenticeship frameworks and helps prepare meaningfully for entry into a Modern Apprenticeship including some course credit [12] .
  • The development of the new Senior Phase Benchmarking Tool [13] and Scottish Schools Online [14] should make the delivery of vocational qualifications with labour market currency, work experience opportunities and progress into post-school vocational destinations and employment explicit indicators of success for all schools.
  • Schools should have senior staff resources dedicated to the co-ordination of vocational education in the senior phase, liaison with colleges, and the promotion of college education and apprenticeships to pupils and parents.

The delivery of our suggested approach would take place between schools and colleges with the latter providing the significant vocational education input. Where new schools are being developed and where well-developed vocational facilities do not already exist nearby, facilities for the delivery of vocational education should be considered. Vocational education could also potentially be delivered in a wider variety of settings including employers' facilities and private training centres in some circumstances.

The divide between senior school and early college in vocational education has always been somewhat arbitrary and, at least partially reducing it, will lead to more young people emerging earlier in life with relevant vocational qualifications, possibly alongside more academic qualifications, to better prepare them for further and higher education, apprenticeships and other training whilst making them more attractive to employers as they move into the labour market.

Young people could also embark on some elements of the Modern Apprenticeship frameworks as part of a wider range of vocational studies before they leave school and thus would be much better prepared for a Modern Apprenticeship. Completing the early non-workplace content of Modern Apprenticeships means the young person leaving school could go straight into the workplace based phase and achieve the relevant credit. We believe this would be particularly attractive to those SMEs who currently don't take on apprentices (see recommendation 20). This approach would also help young people better understand the apprenticeship opportunity alongside other options before they leave school.

To support this change, the new Senior Phase Benchmarking indicators being introduced should explicitly measure pupil attainment in vocational qualifications with labour market currency alongside more academic qualifications.

The East Lothian Hospitality & Tourism Academy

The East Lothian Hospitality & Tourism Academy is a joint initiative between Edinburgh College, East Lothian Council, Queen Margaret University and a number of leading employers. The Academy aims to provide young people in schools with the educational building blocks and work experience needed to prepare them for the range of employment opportunities in the sector. The pupils visit leading employers to gain work experience, see demonstrations from industry experts and get the opportunity to study both at college and at university while still being able to stay at school.

Those young people who attend the Academy are able to complete an HNC in Hospitality with Edinburgh College over two years while still at school. This HNC will be done alongside their Highers study in S5 and S6. On successful completion, they will be able to progress to year 2 of the Hospitality and Tourism degree at Queen Margaret University.

Due to its initial success, the Academy has received an additional funding from the Scottish Funding Council to support its expansion. This will see up to 1200 young people enter into specialist academy training in their chosen field of employment whilst they are still at school. The collaborative model will be rolled out across more secondary schools in East Lothian, Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders and new academies in Health and Social Care, Food Technologies and the Creative Industries will be developed.

Preparing Young People For The World Of Work

Recommendation 2: A focus on preparing all young people for employment should form a core element of the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence with appropriate resource dedicated to achieve this. In particular local authorities, Skills Development Scotland and employer representative organisations should work together to develop a more comprehensive standard for careers guidance which would reflect the involvement of employers and their role and input.

  • By the end of S3 all pupils should have a demonstrable understanding of the process of finding, applying for and successfully getting and sustaining a job. If it supports delivery, consideration should be given to offering the SQA [15] Employability Award from S4 onward.
  • Initial teacher training and continuous professional development should include modules which help teachers deliver a broader understanding of employment and enterprise as part of the Curriculum for Excellence Broad General Education and the senior phase.
  • Additionally, programmes should be developed in partnership with industry to provide teachers who will lead our schools in future with a wide ranging understanding of industry and careers.
  • Schools should have a dedicated senior resource focused on developing partnership activities with business and industry aimed at providing meaningful work experience opportunities, careers advice and a range activity exposing pupils to enterprise and the world of work in schools. This will be an essential part of the long term partnerships between schools and industry proposed in the section on the Involvement of Employers.
  • There is a strong case to provide careers advice and knowledge of the world of work significantly earlier than the present S4 onward. Skills Development Scotland [16] , working with schools and local authorities, should aim to provide some early careers advice and world of work knowledge in S1 and S3 prior to the subject choice towards the end of S3.
  • Education Scotland's new involvement in evaluating the quality and effectiveness of careers services in our schools and of the implementation of the modernisation programme is very important and progress on this should be a priority [17] .

A good understanding of the world of work and employment opportunities available is fundamentally important to all young people, irrespective of the educational and career pathways they choose. This needs to start earlier and be delivered in a way which inspires and excites young people. It must also be sustained and focused throughout young people's education, helping them to manage their careers, develop skills to secure employment and succeed in the workplace.

Teachers have an important role to play - not as a replacement for careers advisors - but in helping young people understand and develop the skills required to successfully prepare for employment. This needs to be covered in teacher training. Skills Development Scotland also has an important role in terms of helping teachers better understand the modern labour market and providing resources and materials to support the delivery of career management skills in schools.

Beyond this an ambitious high-level programme of fellowships for future school leaders, co-designed with industry and sponsored by some of our leading companies could, over time, bring greater knowledge and appreciation of the requirements of the world of work into schools (see recommendation 16).

The need for meaningful and effective career advice is of fundamental importance. It is clearly too early to properly assess the effectiveness of the modernisation of the careers services. This aims to combine the use of My World of Work, the development of Career Management Skills, support and engagement from industry, the development of Skills for Work within Curriculum for Excellence, and, over time, helping teachers better understand the world of work.

As this comprehensive new approach moves forward there should be continuous monitoring of the feedback from young people and their parents and a strong focus on how the strengths and interests of the individual can best be employed.

The current model should be adapted to provide careers advice and knowledge of the world of work earlier and we suggest this might be done in S1 and S3 prior to the subject choice and then again in S5. Additionally, close contact must be maintained with parents who can significantly influence career choices.

This should be supported by the development of a standard for careers guidance which reflects the deeper involvement of employers and their role and input. This work should involve local authority education directorates, Skills Development Scotland, and employer representative bodies.

Recommendation 3: A modern standard should be established for the acceptable content and quality of work experience, and guidelines should be made available to employers. This should be developed by Education Scotland in partnership with employer bodies and Skills Development Scotland. This should involve input from young people. Work experience should feature in the Senior Phase Benchmarking Tool and in Education Scotland school inspections.

The current approach to work experience needs to be developed to allow young people to have a richer experience of the workplace. For those young people who have already formed a clear set of career aspirations, a meaningful exposure to the requirements of their chosen field related to their studies will better prepare them for success. For those who are less certain about their future career, a range of experiences will help provide them with a good basis on which to make decisions.


Scotland's colleges play an important role in helping young people of all backgrounds and abilities develop skills that are vitally important to our economy while exposing them to the more independent and self- reliant environment of college education. They cover a wide spectrum from their distinctive and significant contribution to higher education through the development of higher level applied technical skills to engagement with those young people furthest from the labour market. The option of full-time college education plus the range of options offered by colleges for those in work are critical elements of Scotland's education system.

The regionalisation of Scotland's colleges provides a significant opportunity for the sector to continue to enhance the perception of college education. Larger colleges will be well placed to play a key role in the planning and delivery of education within their regions, in the development of highly valued vocational education pathways starting with school pupils and leading onto higher education, apprenticeships and employment, and in the development of advanced skills in evolving centres of excellence.

In our Final Report we focus on how colleges can make a wider ranging impact in other parts of the education system and on how the Regional Outcome Agreements [18] should support the transition of students from college into employment.

Regional Outcome Agreements

Recommendation 4: Colleges' key role in the development of Scotland's young workforce should be recognised and managed through Regional Outcome Agreements.

  • Colleges must play a key role in significantly enhancing vocational education in the senior school phase through partnership with schools.
  • Colleges, which account for almost 1 in 5 young higher education students in Scotland, should, with the increasing need for higher level technical and associate professional skills in the changing labour market, be encouraged to develop this distinctive contribution, including more focus on the STEM subjects.
  • A commitment to ongoing quality improvement in the delivery of vocational education should be at the heart of all Regional Outcome Agreements. This should be assessed rigorously by Education Scotland and should be a key performance indicator within Regional Outcome Agreements.
  • Regional colleges' contribution to the delivery and development of Modern Apprenticeships and their performance within the programme should be a key element of the overall regional college performance assessment.

As we have outlined in earlier recommendations, colleges can play a vital role in delivering meaningful vocational education to young people in the senior school phase. By doing this consistently across the country, we can set many more young people on pathways to rewarding employment, either directly or through subsequent higher level study, while allowing them to continue to pursue some academic studies. This role needs to be reflected explicitly in Regional Outcome Agreements.

The quality of college provision is critically important to helping young people develop the high level vocational skills they will need to succeed in employment. Attention to improving this on an ongoing basis will help drive up attainment and will improve the status of vocational education in schools and colleges.

Colleges are well placed to contribute to the delivery of high quality Modern Apprenticeships which respond to the evolving needs of Scotland's economy. Their participation in Modern Apprenticeships should be encouraged and they should compete alongside the best performing private sector training providers.

Focus On Employment

Recommendation 5: The new regional colleges should have a primary focus on employment outcomes and supporting local economic development. This should be underpinned by meaningful and wide ranging partnerships with industry and should be at the forefront of Regional Outcome Agreements and their measurement.

  • As Regional Outcome Agreements evolve, a primary focus on employability, employment outcomes and engagement and partnership with industry and economic development services should be brought to the fore in the development of a meaningful and measureable set of performance indicators.
  • Using regional and sectoral labour market information and knowledge of developments in the local economy, college provision should demonstrably and increasingly be tailored to meet local and regional labour market demand on an ongoing basis. This should be reflected in Regional Outcome Agreements.
  • College provision should be increasingly industry facing with significant elements of work experience and, where that is not practical, work simulation built into all courses.
  • Colleges should work with the Community Planning process and regional business and industry to address the short, medium and long term skill requirements.
  • Colleges should focus on communicating the value of college education directly with young people, parents, schools and employers through the development of transparent, publicly available accountability frameworks which build on Regional Outcome Agreements.
  • Colleges across Scotland should focus on building stronger relationships with business and industry through whose participation in college governance, provision of work experience and careers advice, collaboration in curriculum development, the development of real life business projects for students and the input of industry to teaching, will be critical to success. This should be included in long term partnership agreements between colleges and industry, an issue we will cover in the second half of the Commission's work.
  • Colleges, the Funding Council, Skills Development Scotland and providers of employment services should work together to develop student employment search services as part of the standard offer of support to students and employers within the new regions.

Achieving good employment is the primary motivation of college students and improved employment outcomes should be at the heart of college performance success.

Colleges cannot control labour market conditions but there are a number of clear steps they can take to support their students into employment. Better alignment of the college courses with labour market demands, building work experience into courses and greater support for students seeking employment are all important steps in improving the employment prospects of their students.

A greater focus on clearly demonstrating the quality and impact of college provision to young people, parents, employers and their wider communities will improve the understanding of colleges' critical contribution to Scotland's economy and the development of our young workforce.

Schools And Colleges Working In Partnership

Recommendation 6: A commitment to supporting the development of Scotland's young workforce through the enhancement of vocational education pathways should feature prominently in the National Performance Framework, Community Plans and College Regional Outcome Agreements.

The Scottish Government, Local Authorities and Regional College Boards all have a critical role to play on this agenda. By setting a high level strategic commitment to the development of improved vocational pathways starting in the school senior phase, they will empower those working at an operational level to collaborate on key issues such as coordinating activity, aligning timetables, resource allocation and the delivery of effective vocational pathways for their area and region. The current review of the college funding methodology will make an important contribution to this work.

This work should be informed by local, regional and national economic development activity, regional and national skills assessments, and significant input from industry. This in turn should form the basis of decisions on who addresses what and where. Above all, joint planning of vocational pathways needs to deliver the flexibility required to meet the needs of young people and employers.

There will be additional costs in the transition phase of moving to the delivery of meaningful vocational opportunities in schools working in partnership with colleges. This will occur as the changes are introduced and school-based learners participate earlier on the NC and HNC programmes in the first three years. The college throughput in this transitional period will increase accordingly. This will disappear after the three year transition period when there should be potential for reducing existing costs in the senior phase at school or at least allocating resources to other outcomes.

There could be some additional college costs for a good news reason. It's likely with the vocational pathway beginning in fourth year of school, significantly more young people will attain NC and HNC qualifications resulting in more demand from young people for HND courses. All of this would enrich Scotland's young workforce.

The Scottish Government, local authorities and regional college boards should work together to reach an early agreement on the resourcing of transitional costs. If the increase in vocational qualifications and educational attainment results in better outcomes for the students, these costs will be fully justified in terms of increased productivity and reduced costs relating to unemployment and its consequences [19] .

Modern Apprenticeships

Modern Apprenticeships are unique within the education system. They are built on a relationship between the employer and the employee and provide the basis for skills to be handed down through the generations. Essentially they are a vehicle for workforce development.

The number of Modern Apprenticeships has grown in recent years across a wide range of trades and sectors with many young people choosing to move into employment and continue their education. Now that it has been established that a higher number of employed apprenticeships can be sustained, Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland are at an important stage in their development.

Alignment with the opportunities of economic growth, the creation of progression routes, quality improvement and increasing the number of employers offering Modern Apprenticeships are all key elements to their further development. It is also important that industry take a broader role in the development, promotion and leadership of Modern Apprenticeships.

Alignment with Economic Growth

Recommendation 7: Modern Apprenticeships should be aligned with the skills required to support economic growth.

  • Skills Development Scotland should lead a targeted marketing campaign toward employers in those sectors of the economy which offer the best long term prospects for young people and with a particular focus on STEM opportunities. This should include SMEs and be co-ordinated in partnership with training providers, colleges, sector skills councils, local authorities, the enterprise agencies and other stakeholders.
  • Information from the emerging skills planning system, underpinned by robust industry-led Skills Investment Plans and Regional Skills Assessments, should increasingly and transparently be used to inform the allocation of Modern Apprenticeship opportunities across the economy.

Through Modern Apprenticeships, the Scottish Government is investing directly in the workforce in partnership with employers themselves. To date the growth has been across the labour market at a range of job levels with only limited specific focus on the key sectors identified within the Scottish Government Economic Strategy.

Now is the time to more actively target Modern Apprenticeships towards supporting economic growth and areas of the labour market where the long term prospects of young apprentices are greatest.

Access and Higher Level Opportunities

Recommendation 8: Development of Modern Apprenticeship access processes and progression pathways should be prioritised.

  • A national online Modern Apprenticeship application service should be developed in which all employers and prospective apprentices should have the option of participating.
  • Skills Development Scotland should actively work with and challenge employers to develop new models to deliver higher level Modern Apprenticeships up to and including degree level on a more significant scale across the economy.
  • To help young people and employers better understand and navigate Modern Apprenticeships, different levels should be clearly branded while continuing to be operated and regulated as part of the single programme.

There has been consistent concern about the difficulty many young people face in accessing a Modern Apprenticeship. It shouldn't be difficult to set up a relevant service to aid young people seeking an apprenticeship and to help employers looking to recruit. Indeed, the third sector organisation Apprenticeships in Scotland, led by young people themselves, already provides a template for such a service.

At the basic level, the apprenticeship should provide young people with meaningful work based skills training, but there should also be opportunities for progressing to higher levels [20] .

For example, within Engineering, demand for higher level skills developed in the workplace is growing and there's clear progress from the trades/crafts apprentice to the technician to the professional engineer. Similarly, apprenticeships are now being offered to develop associate and technical skills in accountancy and are likely in the legal profession with young people trained to graduate level professional standards.

In future there should be more focus on Modern Apprenticeships at level 3 and above, with more higher level frameworks being encouraged in line with the move toward demand for higher skills across the economy. Opening out more progression routes beyond level 3 will make Modern Apprenticeships more attractive to a wider group of young people while providing a wider range of models to employers seeking to build their future workforce.

Skills Development Scotland, employers, their representatives, professional bodies, sector skills councils, training providers, colleges, universities and the Scottish Funding Council should work together to develop innovative approaches to deliver new higher level apprenticeship options.

The term Modern Apprenticeships is still applied across the wide variety of different in-work training programmes and there is a case to introduce branding to help young people and employers differentiate between different apprenticeship levels. Thus rebranding the present levels 2, 3, 4 and 5 apprenticeships should be considered in partnership with industry, with industry's needs to the fore.

In the same way as we believe there is a need for Scotland to rethink and recognise the huge value of vocational education there's also a strong case for a rethink on the status and value of apprenticeships. Introducing clearly understood and rewarding progression routes to levels equivalent to higher education qualifications should help.

Professional Services Higher Apprenticeships

PWC has led a group of 40 employers in the professional services sector to design the content of the new Professional Services Higher Apprenticeship. This is now available for employers to use, creating a new, industry recognised and structured route to careers in the audit, tax and consulting occupations. PWC and its partners have also developed a follow-on Apprenticeship that will provide routes to chartered professional status in accounting, audit and tax.

Engineers of the Future

Engineers of the Future is a bespoke five-year company-sponsored programme aimed at talented students interested in a career in Mechanical, Chemical or Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

It offers the unique opportunity to combine vocational training and an MEng degree with hands-on industrial experience. Throughout the programme students are sponsored by one of the companies involved in the programme. This arrangement ensures that all costs are covered and that the students receive a salary while studying.

Initially, students complete a Modern Apprenticeship in Engineering and a Higher National Diploma at one of the college partners with the correct material for progression to university study. In the third year of the programme students progress to study at Heriot-Watt University until the completion of the MEng after the fifth year. The vacation periods contain work placements at the sponsoring company and the integrated projects within the MEng are specific to the sponsoring company and may be undertaken either on-site or on-campus.

Participating institutions include Forth Valley College and Heriot Watt University.

Quality Improvement

Recommendation 9: An industry-led quality improvement regime should be introduced to oversee the development and promotion of Modern Apprenticeships.

  • A Scottish Modern Apprenticeship Supervisory Board should oversee the detailed strategic development and promotion of Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland.
  • The Modern Apprenticeship Group which approves frameworks should report to the Supervisory Board.
  • Education Scotland's remit should be extended to include inspection and quality improvement of the delivery of Modern Apprenticeships.

At present much of the detailed development of Modern Apprenticeships lies in the hands of funding and delivery bodies. While Ministers should continue to set the high level parameters of the Modern Apprenticeship programme and Skills Development Scotland should continue to lead on procurement, there is a need to bring much more industry leadership and involvement to the strategic and detailed development of the programme and to its promotion to industry.

A supervisory board drawing its membership from senior business leaders, the trade unions, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority [21] should be tasked with this role. The board should collaborate with Industry Leadership Groups, the Joint Skills Committee of the Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland and others to ensure that the development of Modern Apprenticeships is in line with wider economic and educational requirements. The new board should also look at how the process of setting up Modern Apprenticeship frameworks can be speeded up and made more flexible without impacting on quality. Finally board members should act as ambassadors for Modern Apprenticeships.

Delivery of Modern Apprenticeships does not currently feature a formal external quality assurance and improvement process. This is at odds with the rest of the education system and thus the proposal that this should be included in the Education Scotland remit. Clearly work-based learning is very different from education in schools and colleges and the inspection and quality improvement model should take account of this.


Recommendation 10: If employers can be encouraged to offer significantly more good quality apprenticeships, the Scottish Government should consider a carefully managed expansion of the annual number of Modern Apprenticeship starts.

If adopted, we believe our recommendations could increase demand for Modern Apprentices among employers and would further enhance the value of the apprenticeship route in the eyes of our young people and their parents. Within the current target, the steps we recommend would further increase the overall value and status of Modern Apprenticeships in the short to medium term.

In the longer term we can see potential for further growth. Clearly this would require additional funding, and growth would need to be carefully planned to protect the quality of Modern Apprenticeships. It will also be important to take steps to minimise the bureaucratic burden on employers and training providers.

Any future growth should be focused at higher levels (level 3 and above). Furthermore, while we see value in adult apprenticeships in a range of contexts, we would suggest that any future growth is focused on 16-24 year olds where the long term returns are likely to be greatest.

While we have focused on Modern Apprenticeships in line with our terms of reference, other work-based learning and training options are also important and should be encouraged.

Quality Assurance

Recommendation 11: Employability must be a key focus within Education Scotland's work to support and quality assure the delivery of education. To support this, Education Scotland must work more closely with business organisations and their members to ensure that their work is underpinned by an understanding of industry's needs and expectations.

In support of our recommendations, Education Scotland has a key role to play. It is critically important that the education inspection, review and quality improvement regime takes account of the needs of industry. In moving forward, Education Scotland must be significantly informed by a good understanding of the demands of the modern labour market in providing its comprehensive national overview of strengths and areas for improvement in Scottish education.

As the changes we recommend are implemented, it will also be important that Education Scotland shares good practice in the areas we have highlighted between schools and colleges across the country.

Science, Technology, Engineering And Maths

While it is difficult to accurately predict the future direction of the economy and the labour market, we can be confident that higher level skills and knowledge of science, technology, engineering and maths ( STEM) will be increasingly important in the years ahead. This is already happening within industries which rely on expertise and proficiency in the STEM subjects, but will occur across the whole labour market and certainly in the key economic sectors identified as having the greatest growth potential in the Scottish Government Economic Strategy.

Recommendation 12: A focus on STEM should sit at the heart of the development of Scotland's Young Workforce.

  • Within their strategic partnerships, each local authority and college regional board should make STEM a priority within their plans to develop vocational pathways.
  • The Scottish Government, working with the proposed new Apprenticeship Supervisory Board, should ring-fence a proportion of all Modern Apprenticeship starts for STEM frameworks. This proportion should be significant and should be above the current level. These STEM apprenticeships should be actively promoted to employers and young people.
  • Consideration should be given to providing meaningful incentives to encourage young people and employers to engage in STEM Modern Apprenticeships and STEM vocational qualifications. Ringfencing a proportion of modern apprenticeship places and encouraging a greater focus on STEM within colleges could help this.

Tangible steps to improving the popularity of STEM education are only achieving limited success. While there is often strong support to encourage more young people into STEM related subjects and jobs, a co-ordinated and sustained effort across all parts of the vocational education system will be required to impact significant change.

More Choices More Chances

Young people who are at risk of disengaging from education at an early age or who have already done so are supported through the third sector, community learning and youth organisations, businesses, colleges, training providers and local authorities. This area has been the focus of work in the past by The Smith Group and others.

Throughout this report, our recommendations are focused on providing attractive and meaningful pathways for all young people toward and into employment. We believe that those at greatest risk of disengagement should be no different.

Recommendation 13: Support for young people at risk of disengaging from education and for those who have already done so should focus on early intervention and wide ranging, sustained support. This should relate to labour market demand and should be focused on helping young people engage on the labour market relevant pathways that we have highlighted.

  • As part of Opportunities for All pre-employment training must focus on supporting young people along pathways which will help them compete in the labour market.
  • As part of Opportunities for All, Skills Development Scotland should work with colleges and other training providers to develop a meaningful national Access to Apprenticeships programme for young people who are not in education or employment. The volume of places on this programme should be linked to anticipated employer demand for apprentices with guaranteed interviews for successful participants.
  • Building on existing good practice, local authorities should adapt the activity agreement approach for those aged under 16 who have disengaged from education or at high risk of doing so. This should focus on re-engagement with mainstream pathways.

In many cases structured mechanisms such as Activity Agreements underpin work to support those young people who have disengaged from education. Activity agreements see young people aged 16-18 who have left school signing up to an individualised learning plan aimed at helping them re-engage with post 16 education and moving toward and into work.

This approach has an impressive success rate. However some young people at risk of disengaging before the age of 16, such as Christmas leavers, might benefit from an earlier intervention of this nature.

Enhanced Vocational Inclusion Programme

Glasgow Kelvin College, West College Scotland and Glasgow Clyde College work with Glasgow City Council's Education Service to deliver the Enhanced Vocational Inclusion Programme ( EVIP) for vulnerable young people who are at risk of disengaging from mainstream education.

Almost all of the young people attending EVIP programmes are looked after or are young carers. They are supported by a combination of college tutors and vocational coaches (employed by Glasgow City Council Education Services). This enables them to gain vocational qualifications as well as to be supported in their personal development.

More recently, some of the programmes have included an option to undertake Standard Grade English (delivered in college, but by Glasgow City Council teaching staff). In 2012/13 over 80% of the young people presented for Standard Grade English were successful. The programmes have a strong focus on vocational skills and skills for employability and the majority of young people undertaking them progress to college, training or apprenticeships.

The programme began solely as a full-time "vocational alternative" to an S4 Standard Grade programme. Over recent years it has developed to include part-time S3 options as well as S5 programmes for winter leavers.


Email: Fraser Young,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
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