Apprenticeship levy must have ‘clear and coherent strategy for implementation’

SNP Spokesperson for Business, Innovation and Skills, Hannah Bardell, says “the implementation of the apprenticeship levy and the proportion allocated to Scotland is far from clear

The young people of our nations are the biggest investment we can make. I grew up in a generation where, if you had the grades you should go to University. Many of my peers didn’t have any idea what they wanted to study, or why, and many set off to University because they were advised it was ‘the right thing to do’. I went to University because it was what I felt was right for me. However, a University education is not necessarily the Holy Grail to a successful or fulfilling career. My own brother was highly intelligent and excellent with numbers but wasn’t hugely academic. Instead of University he had the pick of apprenticeships in greenkeeping or plumbing. He chose the greenkeeping path and is now in public service of a different kind. Many young people today will have a ‘gigging career’ – a number of different jobs or careers in their lifetime – and an apprenticeship can be the beginning of that.

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Apprenticeships week is an incredibly important opportunity to highlight and celebrate the importance of apprentices in our workforce and encourage businesses to find the talent they need to grow.

The SNP is committed to reducing youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021. One of the ways we are doing this is delivering 25,000 Modern Apprenticeships a year and by 2020 we hope that this will increase to 30,000 Modern Apprenticeships a year.

Ahead of Apprenticeship Week, I was lucky to meet with Pat Mavor, the owner of Mavor & Co, and her current Modern Apprentices Allanah Lees and Kirsten McDonald in my Livingston constituency. It was clear both apprentices were benefiting from the opportunity to go straight into the workplace from school and Mavor & Co’s Investor in People status is a further sign of excellence in developing their staff.

Because the implementation of the apprenticeship levy and the proportion allocated to Scotland is far from clear, the SNP will continue to press the UK Government for clarity. I personally raised the issue of the levy being a potential double charge on the Oil & Gas sector with Minister Nick Boles. As an industry that is facing significant challenges, we must ensure the UK Government treats Oil and Gas fairly when the levy is implemented. A clear and coherent strategy for implementation is imperative and my colleague Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training continues to engage with many sectors to understand the impact and opportunities for Scotland.

The SNP in Scotland is also investing in career advice for young people through Skills Development Scotland and aim to reduce gender imbalance in subject groups within college courses where there is underrepresentation of young women or men. Women are relatively well represented overall in apprenticeships, however, depending on the sector there are large inequalities with deeply embedded gender stereotypes at all levels of apprenticeships. The Young Women’s Trust recently revealed that there is an apprenticeship gender pay gap of around 21 per cent, with women less likely to receive training and less likely to end up with a job. This needs to change, and the best place to start is with ensuring apprenticeships are high caliber experiences that are open to all.

We must remind ourselves that a University education can be great, but an apprenticeship and real-life experience can be equally valuable.

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