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Improving the education and life chances of children and young people is the defining mission of the Government. The Scottish Government provides to young people in Paisley a range of support that is aimed at improving educational outcomes and employment prospects. This year, the Scottish attainment challenge is providing almost £7.8 million of extra resources for schools in Renfrewshire through pupil equity funding and the challenge authorities programme, which provides support to schools that support children and young people who live in communities affected by high levels of deprivation.
In addition, Renfrewshire Council received £275,000 from the innovation fund in 2016-17, which was used in schools to continue to build on approaches that are already making a difference, such as family learning projects within schools. That was done in partnership with the local authority and external partners.
Since April 2017, there have been 140 modern apprenticeship starts and more than 90 starts under the employability fund in Renfrewshire. As of June 2017, there were almost 650 apprentices in training in the area. The community jobs Scotland programme has 32 employers in the Renfrewshire area and more than 160 young people have benefited from a job training opportunity.
Does the minister agree that the invest in Renfrewshire programme—which recently relocated to Paisley’s historic Russell institute building in the town centre along with Skills Development Scotland and is part funded by the European social fund—is a perfect example of how training and the resulting skills can encourage employability, and that that approach can be sustained in towns such as Paisley?
I am aware of the invest in Renfrewshire initiative and its recent relocation and co-location with Skills Development Scotland. The best way to illustrate its success is to point out that, when the programme was launched in July 2012, Renfrewshire was 27th out of the 32 local authorities for youth unemployment, that it is currently fourth in Scotland and that it saw the biggest youth employment growth in Scotland for three years running. That says something about the programme’s success.
I am also hugely enthusiastic about the initiative’s recent co-location with Skills Development Scotland at the Russell institute. That is a good approach that builds on the success of the initiative and uses Skills Development Scotland’s skill set.
George Adam correctly identified that European Union funds had been used for the invest in Renfrewshire initiative. Of course, there is significant concern about the long-term funding prospects as a result of Brexit. We continue to look for clarity on that matter from the United Kingdom Government.