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Pupils are returning to school this week after last leaving the classroom in March.

The impact of COVID-19 since then has hit every aspect of society.

As schools open their doors and the wider effects of the pandemic becomes clearer each day, it’s important that we look towards recovery and doing everything we can to support young people.

We know from experience that young people are disproportionately hit by recessions and economic downturns.

The economy has been shut down for four months and apprenticeship starts have, like every aspect of live, been significantly affected.

National commitment

I’m encouraged, then, to see Scottish Government’s economic recovery plans put a focus on youth employment, training and apprenticeships.

Investment of at least £50 million in youth employment and the Scottish Job Guarantee, along with further embedding Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeship places as part of the wider college and university provision will offer some well-needed support.

The additional £10million for Adopt an Apprentice – the service that supports Modern and Graduate Apprentices facing redundancy – will provide help when people need it the most.

Role of employers

A potential ‘pathways to apprenticeships’ initiative could also see those leaving school with fewer options, through no fault of their own, supported through challenging and uncertain times.

The Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board – which offers a collective ‘voice of industry’ – will play a key role along with businesses from all sectors in shaping these responses to meet the needs of employers and young people.

There’s a strong commitment to ensure all available incentives are utilised to support the recruitment and retention of apprentices.

It’s recognised that Scotland has a strong, resilient and flexible work-based learning system and infrastructure, with apprenticeships steadily growing over past decade with innovations like Foundation and Graduate.

Work-based learning for recovery

A recent report from the OECD – an international organisation which advises governments and policy makers on best practice on a range of social, economic and environmental challenges – says Scotland’s work-based learning system is well-placed to support economic recovery.

The report recognises progress and innovations such as the expansion of the work-based learning system to include Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships.
Its recommendations illustrate how Scotland can continue to build capacity to respond to change, especially in the face of challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

There will be huge challenges – both to the economy and individual employers – but we can’t afford to let that investment diminish.

"Scottish Government has a long-term commitment to apprenticeships and their role in economic recovery from the pandemic. But now is the time for us all to re-double efforts through industry and political leadership to support apprenticeships."

Paul Campbell, Scottish Water

Time to invest

At Scottish Water, we will maintain our investment in apprenticeships as planned.

We are continuing with our intake for this year as we believe our apprentice pipelines are critical to our future sustainability and our ability to deliver services.

Scottish Government has a long-term commitment to apprenticeships and their role in economic recovery from the pandemic.

But now is the time for us all to re-double efforts through industry and political leadership to support apprenticeships.

The right support now means that employers and young people benefit from apprenticeships and work-based learning pathways through economic recovery and beyond COVID-19.

Supporting young people to have the access to skills and training pathways employers need will be critical to economic recovery.

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