The Scottish Government has responded to concerns about the impact that the pandemic has had on young people by introducing the young persons guarantee, providing £70 million of funding this year in addition to the £60 million that was allocated last year.
The 2019-20 data showed that 92.2 per cent of school leavers were in a positive destination at the nine-month point after the end of the school year. The 2020-21 figures will be available in due course.
In Falkirk, the number of apprenticeships has dropped from 587 last year to 160 this year. That fall is replicated right across the country. Without whataboutery, and without any defensiveness, does the minister recognise that that is a disaster for young people, for businesses and for all of us? Is he satisfied that enough is being done to address that issue?
Of course we saw a significant impact on the number of apprentices being recruited in the past year; how could we have seen anything but, given that we are in a global pandemic and demand was suppressed? However, what satisfies me is the positive news that, in the first quarter of this year, there were 3.7 times as many modern apprenticeship as there were in quarter 1 of the previous year. We are, therefore, recovering.
In relation to Stephen Kerr’s point about “whataboutery”, I take that as a reference to what is happening in Scotland by comparison to the rest of the UK. I will update the chamber with regard to that.
In 2016-17, we had 26,262 apprenticeship starts; by 2019-20, that number was up to 27,875. Over the same period in England, by contrast, the number of apprenticeship starts declined by 172,400.
We have a range of initiatives under way. For example, our developing the young workforce activity is now well embedded and is being accelerated and enhanced by the nearly 300 DYW school co-ordinators who are employed across every secondary school in Scotland. The young persons guarantee, which I mentioned, will provide at least 24,000 new and enhanced employment, education and training opportunities over a two-year period in addition to all the activity that we already have in place.