As the industry prepares for significant challenges in 2021, new apprenticeship funding grants are welcome, says Paul Campbell of Scottish Water and President of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board Employer Engagement Group
The relaxation of regulations and an imminent vaccine tend to be signs of optimism and change as we look forward to 2021. I was inspired by the First Minister’s announcement of the assistance package available under the Young Person’s Guarantee, without denying that the Scottish Government still has a big challenge ahead of it as it sets out proposals for economic recovery.
A much-needed financial boost for employers from the new £ 15 million Apprenticeship Employer Grant is part of the deal. For each person employed or retrained into an apprenticeship, the grant would provide up to £ 5,000, acknowledging the daunting circumstances employers face as a result of the coronavirus.
Financial support for companies willing to continue investing in their future talent would make all the difference for many companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, which may be struggling to meet the cost of hiring apprentices at this time.
I am glad to see that the grant and its details were very much influenced by employers – and I was delighted to have the opportunity to lead the employer consultation on it in my role as Chair of the Employer Engagement Committee of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board (SAAB). As the ‘voice of business’ on all matters relating to apprenticeships in Scotland, the Advisory Board plays a central role.
We are proud to take an active role in the strategic direction and management of apprenticeships, with our members representing employers of all industries and sizes – our mission is to ensure that they are forward-looking and fit for purpose.
The value of teamwork has been shown by SAAB. Our suggestions were that not only recruiting but also upskilling of current apprenticeship workers should be funded by the grant and that the sum should be set at up to £ 5,000 per apprentice to ensure that employers obtain appropriate financial incentives.
Although we continue to work on the specifics with skills organisations, training providers and trade unions, I am pleased to see that the Scottish Government has taken the industry’s views into consideration in its bid. This result is another accomplishment I am very proud of for the Advisory Board, and I will encourage companies impacted by the pandemic to take advantage of this funding until grant applications open in early January.
We have tried to lead the way at Scottish Water by partnering with our suppliers and supply chain to ensure that we have the expertise and people to deliver our ongoing investment in our critical services and infrastructure, which will last for several decades and will be created day in, day out by our customers.
Whether by developing apprenticeship programs, offering internships, or promoting collaborations between schools and companies, there is a tremendous opportunity for larger employers to innovate and collaborate with their suppliers and partners.
To support the Youth Guarantee and the wide variety of resources and benefits available to employers, we have recently conducted a series of workshops for our partners. This is not only about being ethical and displaying leadership, but is ultimately something that, by improving and building our skills base, will help the entire industry in Scotland in the medium to long term.
As the Scottish Government has now released its revised Climate Change Strategy, which commits Scotland to a Covid-19 green recovery, the road to recovery from the economic damage caused by the pandemic is not going to be easy. Complementing this is the release by Skills Development Scotland of a new Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan, which looks at the skills necessary to achieve a net zero economy. It identifies a range of priority areas that will help Scotland take advantage of job opportunities emerging from a net zero economy, based on employers, education and individuals.
Here at the Wa Scotch