Central to our developing the young workforce strategy is a commitment to prioritise and further expand STEM apprenticeship opportunities. We recently published “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Education and Training Strategy for Scotland”. It makes a commitment to the planned expansion of STEM-related foundation apprenticeships for pupils in the senior phase of school and graduate apprenticeships for those working and studying for a degree qualification, which will provide clear pathways in STEM-related work-based learning qualifications.
For the current 2016 to 2018 cohort, foundation apprenticeships are being delivered in just 23 of the 32 local authorities. There have been only 251 STEM starts over that entire timeframe. This is national apprenticeship week. Will the minister outline what he is doing to ensure that all school-age students will have access to STEM foundation apprenticeships, if they want them?
As the member will appreciate, foundation apprenticeships are a relatively new creation, which we have been road testing and are still rolling out. We have gone from a position in 2014 when we had two pathfinder frameworks being delivered in two local authorities to the position this year in which we will provide opportunities for more than 2,000 young people across Scotland to take part in foundation apprenticeships, which will be delivered in all 32 local authority areas. Therefore, the member can be assured that we take the roll-out, the development and the expansion of foundation apprenticeships very seriously. We have made a commitment that there will be 5,000 such opportunities from 2019 onwards. We are continuing to grow the offer, and I assure the member that STEM is a critical part of that offering.
Cutting more than 800 STEM teachers will not help to promote opportunities in STEM to young people, especially those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. What specific action is the Scottish Government taking to support children and young people from our most deprived communities to enter STEM apprenticeships?
As I have just said, we are rolling out foundation apprenticeships more widely. That wider availability will ensure that more young people have the opportunity to take part and, specifically, it will ensure that we have greater diversity among those taking part in STEM careers and apprenticeships. We take that very seriously and we are approaching it through a range of initiatives. Skills Development Scotland works with partners at a local level to ensure that there is greater uptake of foundation apprenticeships in STEM-related opportunities, and ensuring that young people from deprived backgrounds can get that opportunity is of critical importance.