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FSB: Adult apprenticeship drive could help fill skills gaps

More funding should be provided to help Scottish firms take on apprentices older than 25 - like parents returning to work or people looking to switch career - according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

FSB says a smaller share of Scottish businesses take on apprentices compared to England, and that fairer funding could help close the gap.  

In a new policy paper published to mark Scottish Apprenticeship Week (5 – 8 March), the small business campaign group highlights official figures showing that 15 per cent of employers in Scotland offer apprenticeships, compared to 19 per cent in England. FSB surveys suggest that this gap is wider amongst the small business community - with only 12 per cent of Scottish FSB members taking on apprentices, compared to 24 per cent in England. 

Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “Scotland has bold ambitions to increase apprenticeship numbers across traditional sectors, like construction and engineering, and in increasingly important industries like data analytics and telecommunications. 

“But if we’re going to reach our 2020 target of providing 30,000 Scottish apprenticeships every year – we might need to change our approach. A business who wants to train someone up - say a parent returning to work, or someone looking to change career - shouldn’t be penalised because of the candidate’s age.”

Skills Development Scotland provide a financial contribution towards the cost of apprenticeship training – with firms often making up any shortfall. As much as £5,500 less is provided to train an apprentice that’s over 25, compared to someone aged between 16 and 19.

At present, only a quarter of Scottish apprentices are over 25. People aged 25 and over accounted for 46% of apprenticeship starts in England in 2016/17.