Apprentices less popular in Scotland

A policy paper published by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says that a smaller share of Scottish businesses take on apprentices compared to England. It argues that fairer funding could help close the gap. The small business campaign group highlights official figures showing that 15% of employers in Scotland offer apprenticeships, compared to 19% in England.

The FSB surveys suggest that this gap is wider amongst the small business community – with only 12% of Scottish FSB members taking on apprentices, compared to 24% in England.

Scotland has bold ambitions to increase apprenticeship numbers across traditional sectors, like construction and engineering, and in increasingly important industries like data analytics and telecommunications. Skills Development Scotland provides a financial contribution towards the cost of apprenticeship training with firms often making up any shortfall. FSB said that as much as £5,500 less is provided to train an apprentice that is over 25, compared to someone aged between 16 and 19 and is recommending that this is examined to encourage older workers to take on an apprenticeship.

At present, only a quarter of Scottish apprentices are over 25. People aged 25 and over accounted for 46% of apprenticeship starts in England in 2016/17. In its policy paper, FSB suggests funding for this policy could come from proceeds from the apprenticeship levy.

The Scottish Government has a 2020 target for 30,000 apprenticeships to be started annually. In financial year 2016/17, 26,262 apprenticeships were delivered. It argues that more funding should be provided to help Scottish firms take on apprentices over the age of 25, such as parents returning to work or people looking to switch career.

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