Growth in apprenticeship numbers in Scotland could be scuppered unless the Scottish Government commits to ring-fencing the new UK-wide Apprenticeship Levy for training, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Scotland has warned.
Figures published by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), reveal 25,818 apprenticeship starts in 2015/16 against the 25,500 annual target.
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Gordon Nelson, Director of FMB Scotland, said the increase was positive, however stressed “the quality and employment outcomes of apprenticeships should take precedent.”
He added: “Equally there is now a fear that this good work could soon be undone if the Scottish Government doesn’t commit to re-investing funds raised by the new UK-wide Apprenticeship Levy. There is a leadership vacuum in terms of demonstrating how the Apprenticeship Levy will be implemented in Scotland.”
The survey also shows this year, the majority of MA starts (79 per cent) were aged 16-24, this is a continuing trend over time. The proportion of starts at level 3 and above has increased to 65 per cent in 2015/16 (a rise of 1 per cent from last year).
Nelson added: “However, in the Scottish Government’s defence, the Apprenticeship Levy has been foisted upon them with no or very little consultation.
“The business community in Scotland has been particularly frustrated as it was impossible to properly engage with policy-makers on this important matter in the run-up to the Scottish Parliamentary elections.
“Now that the elections are behind us, and the relevant Ministers are in place, we want a clear message from the Scottish Government that they will engage with the construction industry and others to develop a workable policy for investing the Apprenticeship Levy that works for the Scottish construction sector.
“It’s crucial that we get this right as the Scottish construction industry is already in the midst of a skills crisis – the FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey showed that nearly half of SME employers are struggling to recruit carpenters, and that more than one in three are finding it difficult to source plumbers.
“These kinds of shortages could have a potentially disastrous effect on the nation’s key housing and infrastructure objectives. The only way to ensure that Scotland keeps building is by developing more home-grown talent, and to achieve this, the construction industry needs the Government to prioritise quality apprenticeships and the upskilling of existing workers.