New goal of 30,000 modern apprentices a year by 2020

Apprentices Image copyright PA
Image caption Scotland currently has a target of delivering 25,000 modern apprenticeships a year

Scotland's modern apprenticeship programme will expand to provide work for 30,000 young people a year by 2020, the first minister has announced.

Alex Salmond told the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Dundee that "significant progress" was being made in fighting youth unemployment.

The annual target for new modern apprenticeships is currently 25,000.

Mr Salmond also announced a £4m three-year funding deal for lifelong learning programmes for union members.

He said the expansion of the modern apprentices scheme was a mark of how successful it had been so far.

Long-term goals

"Scotland currently has the eighth lowest rate of youth employment in the European Union," he said.

"It is still far too high but we have made significant progress. We are delivering 25,000 modern apprenticeships a year, up from 15,000 when we took office."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Alex Salmond said the Scottish government's Cabinet was now 40% women

He added: "This policy has been an overwhelming success. Ninety two per cent of people are still in work six months after they finish their apprenticeships.

"We will create thousands of additional apprenticeship places by 2020 - focused on the highest level jobs and highest level schemes."

An Audit Scotland report earlier this year confirmed the government was hitting current apprenticeship targets, but said more specific long-term goals for the programme were needed.

As well as continuing support for Scottish Union Learning, Mr Salmond also promoted women's employment, noting that the Scottish government's Cabinet was now 40% female after recent promotions.

'Merit-based approach'

He said: "Angela Constance and Shona Robison have been proposed for promotion to the Cabinet because they are the best people to lead on policies which are crucial to Scotland's future.

"This merit-based approach is the route by which we believe all boards - public and private - can achieve better representation of women.

"There is a fundamental point here. It is unacceptable for the talents and expertise of half of our population to be under-represented in the boardroom or in the workforce more widely.

"It's an obstacle to prosperity and an affront to social justice."

Grahame Smith, STUC general secretary, welcomed parts of the speech but said even more modern apprenticeships should be created.

He said: "The STUC enthusiastically welcomes the first minister's confirmation that the Scottish government will continue to fund Scottish Union Learning for the next three years.

"However, his commitment to increase the target for modern apprenticeships to 30,000 by 2020 seems modest in light of the youth employment challenge we face. "

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