Modern apprenticeships are demand led. As employers—including those who offer modern apprenticeships—often recruit in cycles, the number of starts in any area can fluctuate from year to year. We have seen growth in the number of apprenticeship starts throughout Scotland, and there has been a record number of starts for the eighth year in a row. In Dundee, Skills Development Scotland is working with employers, partners and individuals to promote work-based learning opportunities, including apprenticeships.
The 12 per cent drop is particularly worrying, given the economic situation in Dundee, where, as the minister knows, there will be even fewer apprenticeship opportunities when Michelin closes, next year—and 70 fewer after the minister’s failure to support the McGill electrical services company. Will the Government now designate Dundee as a priority area for apprenticeships, and will he meet me as soon as possible to discuss taking special measures to get young Dundonians into work?
In respect of McGill’s, which the member has mentioned, of the 72 modern apprentices who were employed there, 70 are no longer seeking alternative employment and the two who are continue to be supported.
In relation to the wider labour market position, and in the context of record high employment in Scotland of 75.9 per cent and record low unemployment of 3.3 per cent, Dundee last year saw the third highest increase in the employment rate of any local authority area. With the support that we are giving to Michelin and the £150 million that we are putting into the city, and in that labour market context, there are plenty of opportunities for employers to take on apprentices in Dundee.
Rather than get her latest press release lined up, why does Ms Marra not join me in congratulating those employers who provide modern apprenticeship opportunities in Dundee and in encouraging other employers to take on more apprentices in Dundee and across Scotland?