Businesses in Scotland employed a record number of Modern Apprentices last year as more than 25,500 young people got the chance to work, learn and earn.
More than a third of all new Modern Apprenticeships were in science, technology, engineering and maths-related (STEM) areas.
There were 25,818 new Modern Apprenticeship places during the last financial year from April 2015 to April 2016.
Four out of five apprenticeships were taken up by 16 to 24-year-olds and overall 41 per cent of apprenticeship starts were female.
SDS Chief Executive Damien Yeates, said: “Continued investment in Modern Apprenticeships from employers across Scotland, through a period of what remains challenging economic conditions, shows the value businesses place on developing their workforce to meet future skills needs.”
Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn met apprentices at BT’s headquarters in Edinburgh to mark the announcement.
He said: “Modern Apprentices make a real contribution to the Scottish economy.
“Apprenticeships offer our young people better career prospects and have a positive impact on businesses and industry, bringing value to both employers and the economy.
“It is fantastic that we have surpassed our target to deliver 25,500 Modern Apprenticeships this year.
“This will now increase to 26,000 for the year ahead and we are on course to achieve to 30,000 by 2020.
“I have seen today at BT the success stories behind these figures. Meeting with engineering apprentices at BT shows the completion of a Modern Apprenticeship is not only great for the individual but also makes a real difference to their employer.
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “An apprenticeship with one of the world’s leading telecommunications companies is a great way to start a rewarding career.
“Apprentices are at the heart of our business, bringing fresh ideas and new ways of working to the teams they join. Many quickly move into management roles having taken advantage of development opportunities during their apprenticeship.”
Improving access and increasing diversity in Modern Apprenticeships is a key area of work for SDS and partners.
SDS’s Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships sets out activity the organisation and partners are taking to address inequality.
Last year the number of apprentices who declared a disability increased to 3.5 per cent.
SDS Director of National Training Programmes, Katie Hutton, said: “We know there is still a lot to do.
“However, the increase is testament to the work that being been done with individuals, employers, training providers and disability groups to continue to widen access.”