Thousands of young people across Scotland have been “left in limbo” as no new modern apprenticeships will be available “for the foreseeable future” as a result of delays with Scottish Government funding, the Scottish Training Federation (STF) said.
Employers have been forced to put their recruitment plans on hold, with training providers looking at laying off staff due to the shortage of work, according to the STF.
Every April, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) enters contracts with employers and training providers to deliver new modern apprenticeships.
But the Scottish Government has not yet agreed a budget or number of new modern apprenticeships with SDS, according to the STF.
The organisation says many training providers are concerned it could be June or July before new contracts are issued.
Without contracts in place, no new apprenticeships can be offered.
The STF has urged the Scottish Government to agree a budget with SDS and make 27,000 apprenticeship places available this year to meet employer demand.
STF chief executive Stuart McKenna said: “This is a very poor situation: nobody in Scotland can start a new modern apprenticeship for the foreseeable future because the budget hasn’t been signed off.
“It’s leaving young people, employers and training providers in limbo. We need the budget to be agreed as a matter of urgency.
“Demand for modern apprenticeships has never been higher. We need a commitment from the Scottish Government for 27,000 new places this year to meet this demand.
“The current situation is bad news for STF members. Most are small businesses working to tight margins. Contract delays such as this cause significant cash flow problems and will result in some having to lay off staff.”
Mr McKenna’s concerns have been echoed by the Scottish Tories.
Pam Gosal, the party’s shadow higher education, youth employment and training minister, said the situation was “appalling”.
She added: “The SNP have failed to invest in vocational and technical qualifications, which are of immense value to our young people and absolutely vital for the growth of Scotland’s economy.
“Scotland’s future depends on our young people and, especially in the current climate, the SNP should be doing much more to encourage training, improve skills and meet employer demand.
“SNP ministers need to redouble their efforts and agree a budget with Skills Development Scotland as a matter of urgency, and ensure that the demand for apprenticeships are met.
“The Scottish Conservatives are committed to removing the limit on the number of funded apprenticeships available so that everyone who wants to undergo an apprenticeship can do so.
“We need to see a similar level of ambition from the SNP, rather than this stalemate lasting for months on end.”
SDS said it has set contracts for those who have already commenced training.
A spokesperson for the organisation said: “SDS has issued contract awards for modern apprenticeship delivery for those currently in training for 2023/24.
“This is to continue to support around 39,000 apprentices currently in training, helping businesses and individuals across Scotland.
“We will set out more detail on our approach to contract awards for new starts in April.
“Scottish Government priorities and best value will continue to direct use of public funds, including support for apprenticeships.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Skills Development Scotland has issued contract awards for 2023-24 for around 39,000 modern apprentices who are currently in training, providing ongoing support for businesses and individuals across Scotland.
“The apprenticeship structures are still in place, and there is nothing to stop employers progressing with apprenticeships that are critical to their business needs.
“There is significant pressure on the budget of the Scottish Government and its agencies as a result of rising costs. But we are working with our partners to finalise budgets and will set out more detail on modern apprenticeship starts later this month.”
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