Ruth Davidson targets 35,000 apprenticeships by 2021

Ruth Davidson has called for 'every penny' of a new levy to be channelled into providing 35,000 apprenticeships a year by 2021.

Ruth Davidson wants to see 35,000 apprenticeships provided annually by 2021
Ruth Davidson wants to see 35,000 apprenticeships provided annually by 2021

The Scottish Conservative leader warned the SNP not to “siphon off” funds from the UK Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, due to come into force in April next year.

Under the scheme, all employers in the UK with an annual pay bill over £3 million will have to contribute to the levy at a rate of 0.5 per cent of their annual pay bill, with a share of the funds allocated to devolved administrations through the Barnett Formula.

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The Scottish Government said a recent consultation on the levy found industry support for using the extra funds to support its target of 30,000 Modern Apprenticeships each year in Scotland by 2020.

Speaking on a visit to Scottish Gas in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Ms Davidson set out a 15-point plan for use of the cash, including a commitment to ensure it is used for in-work training only.

She also called for apprenticeships to be expanded for older workers who require retraining and for transparency over how much funding is being raised.

Ms Davidson said: “We want to make Scotland the skills capital of Europe - so we believe every penny of this new funding must be spent on boosting training for workers.

“Scottish companies are contributing millions of pounds but the Scottish Government won’t tell them how that money is going to be spent or how it will benefit their businesses.

“We can’t allow the SNP to siphon off these funds to pay for pet projects and our message is clear - there must be no attempt to rob Peter to pay Paul.

“Nicola Sturgeon has shown how little she cares for vocational education by gutting Scotland’s colleges and cutting 152,000 college places.

“She’s about to be handed millions of pounds from Scottish firms to spend on skills training - she needs to make clear that money will be used to develop a skilled workforce.”

Liam Kerr MSP, the party’s training spokesman, added: “Businesses across Scotland are telling us that they want to hire more people - but they are also warning that they can’t find people with the skills required.

“We now have the chance to invest in Scotland’s workers. That means 35,000 apprenticeships by 2021 and new training for current workers whose skills need updating.

“That includes many older workers who are currently barred from taking on a Modern Apprenticeship. Thousands of experienced workers, particularly in the north-east, need help to re-skill - and government must act now to support them.”