Apprenticeships up by over a fifth in Borders, minister reveals

Training and employability minister Jamie Hepburn.
Training and employability minister Jamie Hepburn.

The number of young people taking up modern apprenticeships in the Borders rose by 22% last financial year, the Scottish Parliament has been told.

That news was conveyed to Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton by Jamie Hepburn, Scottish Government minister for training and employability.

In her Southern Reporter column last week, Mrs Hamilton, a Conservative, criticised the Scottish National Party government’s spending record on apprenticeships, claiming the less than 5% of spending devoted to its skills fund was “simply not enough”.

She also called on the Scottish Government to incentivise sectors of industry to offer more apprenticeships.

In a written parliamentary question, Mrs Hamilton wanted to know what action the Government is taking to increase the number of apprenticeships in the Borders.

Mr Hepburn told her there had been 472 modern apprenticeship starts in the Borders last year, up from 387 the year before, representing a rise of more than a fifth.

A further report by the national skills agency Skills Development Scotland revealed there had been 80 such starts in the first quarter of this financial year, compared to 65 in the corresponding quarter of last year, an increase of 23%.

The agency currently spends £2.58m a year on employment services in the Borders, including £1.59m on partnership projects.

These include the funding of training providers to work with local businesses taking on modern apprentices aged 16 to 24, offering them a sector-recognised qualification and on-the-job experience.

In his response to Mrs Hamilton, Mr Hepburn added: “The Borders regional group for Developing the Young Workforce has been working in partnership with Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Borders Council to promote apprenticeship opportunities, including at foundation, modern and graduate level, to employers, young people, parents and teachers.”