The Deputy First Minister wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 12 February specifying a series of tax measures for inclusion in next week’s budget and calling for the consideration of government loan guarantees. Those measures are needed to help the industry survive these tough times, to protect critical infrastructure and to sustain and incentivise investment.
One very telling example of the impact of the problems that the sector is experiencing is a marked reduction in the recruitment of oil and gas-related engineering apprentices for next year. What can be done to ensure that we continue to have a throughflow of engineering trainees? As part of that, what might the Government do to assist engineering training providers to get through what promises to be a difficult couple of years and to retain the teaching staff who are required for when the upturn arrives?
Mr Dey is quite right: to see the industry through these tough times, we must help young people by retaining their skills. There are decades of success ahead for the oil and gas industry once it emerges from these difficulties. That is precisely why an enhanced adopt an apprentice scheme was launched last year. Twenty-one apprentices have been helped to retain their work precisely because of that scheme, and that is a good thing.
The First Minister has announced a training programme of £12 million, which will be open to those seeking training to help with moves into other employment, whether in the oil and gas industry, in the wider energy sector and other sectors. Funding will not be dependent on their already having secured a job.
Before we move to the next item of business, members will wish to join me in welcoming to the gallery His Excellency Mr Lauri Bambus, the Ambassador of Estonia to the United Kingdom. [Applause.]