Access to Scottish Government Apprenticeship Employer Grants for companies in the electrical sector is to be discussed at Ministerial level following an intervention by the industry’s training specialist.
The action was initiated after being discussed by SECTT, electrotechnical trade association SELECT and the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB) in response to concerns raised by businesses that they were being unfairly excluded from the scheme.
The grants scheme, which opens this month (January 2021), was a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides sums of up to £5,000 for employers to take on an apprentice or upskill an existing member of staff through apprenticeship.
However, the grants are only valid for apprentices recruited after 1 December 2020. This directly and adversely affects the electrical industry, which aligns with the academic year and has already taken on some 470 apprentices since the late summer of 2020.
Anne Galbraith, Chief Executive of SECTT, explains: “It feels that we are being punished for being ahead of the game by encouraging employers to give young people a chance.
“Given that the industry has gone the extra mile not only to afford young people a future, but to enhance its skillsets, it would seem reasonable to ask that the eligibility date could be backdated to the start of the academic year, when so many electrical firms hired.
“Alternatively, the Scottish Government could simply provide a fixed amount for employers who take on apprentices, rather than imposing this arbitrary time restriction.”
Galbraith said that she was looking forward to discussions with the Minister, who said in December: “We are taking every step within our power to create a stronger, more resilient, sustainable economy as we work to recover from the pandemic.”
She comments: “We are grateful to Hepburn for his response and we are keen to work on behalf of SELECT and the SJIB to find a solution.
“The only people who will benefit from the scheme are private and in-house training providers.”
Fiona Harper, The Secretary of the SJIB, says: “Electrical businesses have always shown a commitment to apprenticeships, which makes an impact on the Scottish economy.
“I am optimistic that the talks between SECTT and Mr Hepburn will find a way to resolve this issue.”