Nearly 20,000 people in Scotland have started a modern apprenticeship over the past year, and are now receiving training and skills development to help them into long-term employment, First Minister Alex Salmond announced today.
This exceeds the Scottish Government's target of delivering more than 18,500 Modern Apprenticeships, set as part of last year's Budget.
The First Minister made the announcement at The Edinburgh Construction Group's site at the University of Edinburgh. The small company with 25 employees has taken on one new apprentice through the £1000 Apprenticeship Grant and adopted a further four apprentices who were at risk of becoming unemployed under the Adopt an Apprentice Programme.
Mr Salmond said:
"Delivering 18,500 Modern Apprenticeships in a time of severe economic turbulence as well as tight public expenditure due to the £500 million Westminster cuts has been challenging. We have exceeded the target and nearly 20,000 people have been given a real opportunity to gain the skills, training and experience needed for successful, long-term employment.
"Skills Development Scotland has worked hard with employers, young people and adults to make this happen. Visiting The Edinburgh Construction Company today, the full benefits of the apprenticeships are clear. Individuals are getting a vital training opportunity, apprentices are being saved from redundancy and small businesses are being supported, in difficult times, to develop new talent to the long-term benefit of their workforce.
"Today's unemployment figures show that the challenges from the recession and downturn remain. However, it is encouraging to see that the number of 18 - 24 year olds in employment in Scotland remains higher than the rest of the UK. Our apprenticeship scheme will continue to help people into employment and make a significant contribution to the Scottish Government's drive to support a strong recovery for the Scottish economy."
Skills Minister Keith Brown said:
"Following on from this success, we have even more ambitious targets for the coming year during which we will offer a flexible range of training opportunities to accelerate economic recovery, including 15,000 apprenticeship opportunities and 5000 flexible training places that meet employers' needs to help accelerate economic growth."
Skills Development Scotland chair Willy Roe said:
"Today's announcement shows in tangible terms what the Modern Apprenticeship and ScotAction programmes have been able to deliver for Scotland's people in a very challenging economic environment. This is due to hard work and commitment from a range of partners, the employers who have shown belief in the apprenticeships and the apprentices themselves.
"Programmes like this allow us to assist Scottish businesses to develop their skills base at a point when they need to be at their most productive, as well as increasing employment opportunities for people across a wide range of sectors."
Graeme Ogilvy, director for ConstructionSkills Scotland said:
"I am delighted to see that the Scottish Government has exceeded its Modern Apprenticeship target on the invaluable 'Adopt an Apprentice' scheme. We have supported this great initiative from its launch less than a year ago.
"Apprentices continue to be the lifeblood of our industry, especially within the construction sector, and it is important that we continue to invest in the ongoing training and development of the next generation of workers."
Directing resources towards skills and training to manage the ongoing employment pressures in Scotland is a crucial element of the Scottish Government's Economic Recovery Plan. Work is underway across the public sector to deliver that plan, accelerate recovery and improve the long term performance of Scotland's economy.
The Scottish Government is committed to modern apprenticeships as part of our strategy to deliver skills solutions for current and emerging Scottish needs. All Modern Apprentices in Scotland must be in paid employment.
The Scottish Government has announced much support for the Apprenticeship Programme over the last few months. An additional #16 million was invested to deliver an additional 7800 new start apprentices in 2009/10. This took the total number of new starts in 2009/10 to 18,500, a 73 per cent increase on the previous year.
Priorities for the Apprenticeship programme this year have been the recruitment of new apprentices to achieve the target but also the retention of apprentices affected by the economic climate.
As such a number of other initiatives to support the apprenticeship programme in Scotland were launched as part of ScotAction:
- 'Adopt An Apprentice' scheme where employers can receive a helping hand of £2000 to employ a redundant apprentice.
- 'Safeguard An Apprentice' provided a £75 per week wage subsidy to SMEs in manufacturing, construction and engineering to help retain apprentices.
- 'Invest in An Apprentice' Strand 1 and 2 gave £2000 to SMEs in manufacturing, food and drink, energy and textile sectors (Strand 1) to recruit 16-19 year old apprentices and £2000 to micro businesses (Strand 2) for management apprenticeships.
- On January 11, 2009 the Scottish Government announced the £1000 Apprenticeship Grant. There was a positive response from employers that resulted in the scheme closing on 5 February 2010. The Scottish Government allocated up to £4 million in this financial year to offer a grant of £1,000 to support the recruitment up to 4000 individual apprentices of any age between 11 January and 26 March 2010.
ScotAction is an integrated package combining new and improved measures to help individuals and businesses through the recession and provides skills assistance - including wage subsidies in some circumstances - for training for work, training in work and training from work to work to help Scottish people and businesses survive the downturn and thrive when the economy starts to recover. Skills Development Scotland, Scotland's national skills agency, play a leading role in taking forward the delivery of these ScotAction initiatives.
The Scottish Government has prioritised skills investment and training commitments for 2010-11, including 15,000 Modern Apprenticeship starts, 14,500 training places to support the unemployed and 5,000 new flexible opportunities to support businesses. The Scottish Government will continue to invest in skills to manage the impact of recession and to prepare our people for the future and the new opportunities that will emerge.