Skills for Work Courses - General Information

Equipping young people with the skills they need for the world of work


It has been recognised for some time that there is a need for vocational courses for young people in the 14-16 age group, which will give them the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills which will help to prepare them for the world of work. In November 2004, the Scottish Executive Report A Curriculum for Excellence called for 'more skills-for-work options for young people, robustly assessed, to help them to progress into further qualifications and work'.

Following a successful 2 year pilot from 2005-7 SQA has made a range of Skills for Work Courses available for centres. These Courses are for pupils in third and fourth year of secondary school and above and they focus on the world of work.

Skills for Work Courses are different from other vocational provision because they focus on generic employability skills needed for success in the workplace. The courses offer opportunities for learners to acquire these critical generic employability skills through a variety of practical experiences that are linked to a particular vocational area such as construction, hairdressing, hospitality etc.

Skills for Work Courses help provide young people with good opportunities to develop their self-confidence. They also aim to provide a very positive learning experience. For many young people, an early chance to work on practical skills that relate directly to the world of work will provide real benefits to their overall educational programme

Young people taking one of these Skills for Work Courses will normally spend some of their time at a local college, other training provider or employer. This will mean learning in a different environment, meeting new people and facing new challenges.

The Courses are intended to provide progression pathways to further education, training and employment. Given the practical nature of the Courses, experiential learning in appropriate learning environments is an essential feature of each Course, although work placement is not essential.

All Skills for Work Courses have a common rationale.

Rationale for Skills for Work Courses

 Skills for Work Courses are designed to help candidates to develop:

A key feature of these Courses is the emphasis on experiential learning. This means learning through practical experience and learning by reflecting on experience.

Learning through practical experience

Teaching/learning programmes should include some or all of the following:

Learning through reflecting at all stages of the experience

Teaching/learning programmes should include some or all of the following:

The Skills for Work Courses are also designed to provide candidates with opportunities for developing Core Skills and enhancing skills and attitudes for employability.

Core Skills

The five Core Skills are:


The skills and attitudes for employability, including self-employment, are outlined below:

Opportunities for developing these skills and attitudes are highlighted in each of the Course and Unit Specifications. These opportunities include giving young people direct access to workplace experiences or, through partnership arrangements, providing different learning environments and experiences which simulate aspects of the workplace. These experiences might include visits, visiting speakers, role play and other practical activities.

A Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Executive 2004) identifies aspirations for every young person. These are that they should become:

The learning environments, the focus on experiential learning and the opportunities to develop employability and Core Skills in these Courses contribute to meeting these aspirations.  

Level and Structure of Course

It is the intention that, over a period of time, an appropriate range of these Courses will be developed and tailored to the needs of candidates at levels from Access to Higher. Courses at Access will normally consist of three 40 hour Units, while at Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2 and Higher the Courses will normally consist of four 40 hour Units.

Achieving the Course

Courses are awarded upon successful completion of the Units which make up the Course. Units are assessed internally by the centre delivering the Course and externally verified by SQA. Assessment involves a range of different tasks, including practical assignments, short tests and keeping personal records. There is no final exam and the Courses are not graded. The added value in the Courses is focused on the development, assessment and recording of progress in agreed generic employability skills.

Titles of Courses and Certification

When young people receive their certificates, the Courses will appear on the certificate in exactly the same way as for any other National Course. Successful candidates will see Course titles such as 'Financial Services - Intermediate 2', 'Hairdressing - Intermediate 1' or 'Sport and Recreation - Intermediate 1' on their certificate.

Partnerships and Reporting of Attainment

All of the Skills for Work Courses have been designed primarily for school learners from the third year of secondary education upwards and are mainly delivered through partnerships between schools and colleges, employers or training providers.

At the planning stage, it is important that partnerships agree which partner will be responsible for delivering the Course and entering candidates. In this context it is important to note that the Scottish Government has confirmed the availability of Dual Reporting of Attainment for pupils certificated from August 2007.

In practical terms, this will mean that school pupils undertaking Course(s) delivered in partnership with a college (or other approved centre) will have their attainment in those Course(s) credited to their school - as well as to the actual delivering centre.

Information and Support Materials for Centres

Centres planning to offer Skills for Work Courses have access to a range of information and support materials:

General enquiries

General enquiries should be directed to SQA's Business Development & Customer Support Team on 0303 333 0330 or e-mail at

General /Course specific enquiries

Subject enquiries should be directed to the appropriate Qualifications Manager for each subject. Contact details for all SQA's Qualifications Managers are available on the subject pages of SQA's website

Approval related enquiries

Approval enquiries should be directed to the Assessment Standards Section on 0345 213 5351.


Skills for Work Courses are not on SQA's 'automatically approved' list of qualifications. Therefore centres must seek approval before offering these Courses for the first time.

All centres wishing to offer Skills for Work Courses for the first time will require to be approved to offer the specific Courses which they plan to offer. SQA's Customer Support Managers and staff within the Assessment Standards section will provide support with this process where required. 

Approval must be sought for each Course which the centre plans to offer, including each level of a Course as resources, equipment, accommodation and staff qualifications/experience required may be different at each level.

Centres will be required to follow SQA's normal approval processes and show that they meet the approval criteria to offer the Course(s).

Where centres have devolved authority for approval they can follow their own internal approval procedures in relation to these Courses and advise SQA of the outcome. Centres who do not have devolved authority for approval must complete the appropriate application for approval to offer a specific qualification.

For approval to offer specific qualifications SQA must be sure that you have made provision for the following in respect of the qualifications that you will be delivering:

Centres can visit the Approval section on our website or contact the Assessment Standards team on 0345 213 5351 for more information about the approval process.