Scotland business

Scottish government allocates £4.5m for youth employment

Apprentice at work
Some of the £4.5m will be used to set up "advanced" apprenticeships

An initial £4.5m has been allocated to help equip young people for work, the youth employment secretary has told MSPs.

The figure emerged as Angela Constance unveiled the government's response to the findings of the Wood Commission.

It had found Scotland was "not preparing or equipping young people for the world of work".

Money will be used to pilot "foundation apprenticeships" so children can start training while still at school.

"Advanced" apprenticeships will also be set up in key skill sectors.

The cash will also support regional employer partnerships, designed to encourage businesses to take on more young people, and a careers advisory service.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Ms Constance said the government would also address gender segregation and assist young disabled people and minority groups to better access training and employment programmes.

Education Scotland will support schools, colleges and communities to better prepare all young people for the world of work, she added.

Labour described the government's plans as "modest" and called for more money for colleges.

Ms Constance said the announcements were an initial response to the Wood report.

She said: "Investing in Scotland's young workforce is key to Scotland's future economic success and tapping into all our talents through a more diverse workforce is not just the right thing to do but makes economic sense.

"Higher skill levels and greater participation in the labour market can boost the productivity of our businesses and help to make Scotland a wealthier country.

"I share the ambitions of the report to significantly reduce youth unemployment and ultimately we want to see a 40% reduction in youth unemployment in Scotland.

"The work we are now taking forward will be a further positive step in that direction."

'Modest target'

Responding to the statement, Labour MSP Jenny Marra said: "Youth employment has fallen by 25% since the cabinet secretary was appointed, which leads me to ask her why we have such a modest target of 40% by 2020 if she would expect a 25% increase anyway. Why only supplement that by 15%?

"Also, these recommendations are underpinned by the success of our colleges but we have had many debates about the underfunding of our colleges.

"The cabinet secretary pledged £12m on the publication of the report, but I only see £4.5m allocated today."

Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon asked Ms Constance how the low female take-up of modern apprentices would be addressed.

Ms Constance replied: "In terms of the equalities agenda, we really do need to start to engage children while they are in primary school to break down those crucial barriers."

The Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce was established by the Scottish government in January 2013.

Chaired by Sir Ian Wood, it was tasked with producing recommendations designed to improve young people's transition into employment.

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