Investing in essential skills

Our guest columnist reveals how apprenticeships have made a difference to so many lives across Scotland – and pays tribute to the SELECT Members who have helped give trainees a start in the electrotechnical industry

By James Dornan MSP, Convener, Education and Skills Committee

Being the Convener of the Education and Skills Committee gives me the opportunity to travel across Scotland to see the excellent work that goes on in our schools and in the higher and further education sectors. However, one of the things I enjoy most is visiting the many businesses that employ apprentices.

The Scottish Government’s Modern Apprenticeships Programme has made a huge difference to those young people who didn’t want to follow an academic route but wanted to explore their potential and creativity in other ways.

The programme offers the opportunity to learn on the job and gain the experience needed, while also working towards a recognised qualification and earning a wage.

There have been some changes to the Modern Apprenticeships. There is now the rural supplement for providers to cover the additional costs for delivering in rural areas. We have also abolished the public sector eligibility restrictions, ensuring public sector employers have the same access to Modern Apprenticeship funding.

The Scottish Government has also made provision for more opportunities to those over 25 and I am delighted that the enhanced contribution rates for young disabled people and those who have experience in care are providing the funding need for those up to the age of 29.

One further development in apprenticeships that I am delighted with is the Graduate Level Apprenticeships, where students can study for degree-level courses while in employment. This meets employers’ needs for high-level skillsets with invaluable industry experience gained within the workplace.

The UK government has also introduced a UK-wide apprenticeship levy which meant that, from April 2017, employers pay 0.5% of their annual pay bill of more than £3 million. The Scottish Government has announced that Scotland’s proportion of the levy shall support skills, training and employment.

I’m sure that many SELECT Members are benefiting from the bright young talent that they have taken on. They shall be a great asset to these firms and I wish to thank SELECT Members for utilising the schemes and incentives that the Scottish Government has provided and for giving these young apprentices the chance to learn, grow and take a stake in our society. It is also important for your customers, whether they are domestic customers, businesses or landlords. We all need the comfort of knowing our home and businesses meet electrical health and safety standards and can call on the industry’s technical inspection services.

The First Minister announced on 5 March 2018 that by the end of 2018 there shall be 27,000 Modern Apprenticeships with a target of 28,000 Graduate Apprentices for 2019.

Scotland’s commitment to our young people is underpinned by Skills Development Scotland, who manage the various apprenticeship programmes, organising a national apprenticeship conference in this, the Year of Young People.

Scotland shall continue its commitment to investing in the skills Scotland needs for a vibrant economy that can deliver for everyone in our society. It will allow our young citizens to play a vital role realising not only their own potential but also the potential business opportunities Scotland has in both domestic and international markets.

This impact should not be underestimated. The uncertainties posed by Brexit and other international developments around us requires Scotland to have a strong economy that is fit for the times ahead.

I believe that our apprenticeship programmes can go a huge way to meeting those challenges.

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