The apprentice row fires up Salmond critics
The SNP’s national apprenticeship scheme is “not working” for young Scots, Alex Salmond was told yesterday, after revelations that one in four youngsters taken on is already in work.
Opposition parties say the figure undermines the public belief that the training opportunities are created to get Scotland’s 100,000 jobless youngsters off the dole.
But Mr Salmond branded the claims “disreputable” during First Minister’s Questions and said an even higher proportion of young people were already in jobs under similar schemes when Labour was in power.
Labour’s youth unemployment spokeswoman Kezia Dugdale told MSPs: “The people of Scotland were led to believe by this First Minister week after week that these 25,000 apprenticeships were created to help the 100,000 out-of-work young Scots.
“Now we know that at least 10,000 of those went to folk already in jobs. On an issue as important as this, why can’t he just be straight with people?”
But Mr Salmond said that the rules have not changed since Labour were in office.
“I’ve watched Kezia Dugdale over the last few days in what I have to say has been one of the most disreputable campaigns against modern apprenticeships,” he said. He then claimed that 23 per cent of youngsters on apprenticeships had already been in work – but under the Labour-led regime the figure was 49 per cent.
“When Labour were in power with a reduced number of apprenticeships, half of young people had been in a job for six months or more,” he added.
“That figure has now been reduced to 23 per cent and Kezia Dugdale has the effrontery to conduct a campaign against a Modern Apprenticeship scheme which is one of the most successful in Western Europe.”
But it later emerged that the 49 per cent figure from 2006 came from a survey of selected youngsters on apprenticeships and was not a “like for like” comparison, Ms Dugdale said.
“In truth this commitment to 25,000 Modern Apprenticeships is a slogan that works for Alex Salmond, but it is not a policy that is working for Scotland’s 100,000 unemployed people,” she said “In 2006 youth unemployment was 60,000. It is now over 100,000 and the government say I have a cheek to criticised the programme that’s exactly the same as the Labour one. I say to this government, they have a cheek to take the same approach to apprenticeships that Labour did when the economy was booming to the times of crisis like today.”
Ms Dugdale also hit out at the level of co-operation from national training body Skills Development Scotland. “I had to drag the facts tooth and nail out of Skills Development Scotland about this issue,” she claimed.
“Letters went unanswered, e-mails ignored, calls ignored and many of my colleagues have had a similar experience,” she said. “Either Skills Development Scotland don’t have the resources to answer or are obstructing access. Both are unacceptable.”
Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance later rounded on critics who described £17 million-worth of initiatives to boost jobs as “pocket money payments”. She also attacked “scaremongering and anecdotal evidence that employers discard young people after the training.”
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