Motion S5M-03731: Apprenticeship Week (Fulton MacGregor MSP)
“That the Parliament notes that Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2017 will take place from 6 to 10 March with the theme, Apprenticeships are Changing; understands that it aims to celebrate the benefits that apprenticeships and work-based learning bring to employers and businesses in Coatbridge and across Scotland, with events and activity taking place throughout the week; recognises the achievements made by apprentices and the value they add to the country’s workforce; notes that the week supports targets to create 30,000 modern apprenticeship places each year as well as the introduction of foundation and graduate level apprenticeships; notes the encouragement given to members to get involved by visiting an apprenticeship employer or training provider in their area, and wishes success to all of the employers, training providers and apprentices involved in the week’s activities.”
I congratulate Fulton MacGregor on securing this debate to celebrate apprenticeship week 2017 and the positive contribution that apprenticeships have made to our society, whether for individuals, businesses, government or the wider Scottish economy. I encourage everyone to participate in the events that are being held across Scotland to support and raise awareness about all the amazing opportunities that apprenticeships provide.
The theme of apprenticeship week 2017 is “Apprenticeships are changing”. Each year, we set an extremely ambitious target to create new opportunities. By 2020, the Scottish Government aims to expand the number of modern apprenticeship opportunities to 30,000 new starts each year, while simultaneously introducing improving new standards to ensure that those who do apprenticeships can rise to the top and reach their full potential. Even more young people will be able to enter the workforce with employers including BT, Microsoft, Scottish Power, the Royal Air Force, Boots, British Airways, BBC Scotland, Santander and Lloyds Banking Group, to name just a few. Small and local businesses have also pledged new apprenticeships and traineeships to give young people the opportunity to develop skills in languages, maths and social sciences, to progress to other jobs and open other prospects.
In my constituency, a wide array of apprenticeships are available and cater specifically for the skills that young people seek to develop and the goals that they want to achieve. I was particularly impressed during a visit to the Harry Fairbairn BMW car dealership in Kirkcaldy, where I met and spoke with the staff and young apprentices. The automotive mechanical industry is a highly skilled field; I was amazed not only by the opportunities that are available but by the high standard of the education and skills that are received by the apprentices.
Fife Council and Fife College are among the area’s largest apprenticeship employers, and offer modern apprenticeships ranging from engineering, construction and social services to creative and media studies. The combination of learning and working provides young people with the best of both worlds, with hands-on work experience as well as study. The 30,000 new starts a year pledge is testament to the popularity of apprenticeships, as more and more young people, employers, parents and teachers recognise their benefits and see that apprenticeships and work-based learning bring economic and social investment to our economy. That will certainly trickle down to our communities.
It is crucial to recognise how businesses and young people can help each other through apprenticeships. When a young person gets involved with a business as an apprentice, they receive the confidence and qualifications that they need to succeed in the future, and businesses are able to build the talent, productivity and motivation that are crucial for growth, success, and accomplishment. The opportunities that apprenticeships provide not only deliver life-changing opportunities for young people; they also help businesses that are eligible for grants for taking on an apprentice. Skills Development Scotland, Scotland’s national skills body, plays a crucial part in helping to create a skilled workforce that is prepared to face the future, by setting young people up for success in their careers. Crucially, SDS is designed to tackle potential skills gaps, as well as to support existing apprentices to develop their skills.
Young people entering the workforce today still face challenges. For example, many young women face challenges that make apprenticeship opportunities a less attractive option for them than further education. It is our job as policymakers to close the gender gap and ensure that every sector of our economy provides as many opportunities to women as it does to men.
An apprenticeship is a real success story. Modern apprenticeships employ over 30,000 young people, 91 per cent of apprentices are still in employment six months after completing their modern apprenticeship, and 96 per cent of employers believe that their former apprentices are better equipped to carry out their jobs. Consistent with this year’s apprenticeship week theme, which highlights the changing nature of apprenticeships, SDS has introduced new programmes including foundation apprenticeships, which bring education closer to industry, and graduate-level apprenticeships, which take work-based learning up to master’s degree level.
I encourage all my fellow MSPs to get involved with as many events as possible in their respective areas during apprenticeship week to show support for our country’s future workforce. Growing talent among the next generation and aiding young people to develop skills to transition into new careers through apprenticeships is a positive way of laying a strong foundation for economic and societal improvement.
Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.