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As we face further uncertainty around the prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities, it’s clear the effects of the pandemic are going to be with us for some time. 

With the planned closure of the UK Job Retention Scheme at the end of next month, the worst economic impacts of the crisis are likely still in front of us.

The Scottish Government’s economic recovery plans focus on youth employment, training and apprenticeships to avoid the ‘scarring of youth unemployment’.

The plans were endorsed recommendations made by the advisory group on economic recovery and the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board.

In co-chairing the Strategic Board sub-group tasked with looking at the issues, the importance of tackling this crisis was all too clear from the evidence we gathered. It is reassuring to see the prominence of intervention aimed at tackling this threat in the Programme for Government and the recently announced Young Person’s Guarantee.

Both as an employer with Scottish Power Energy Networks and as Chair of Skills Development Scotland (SDS), I see this as a top priority that must be reflected in the actions of the private and public sectors.

SDS has continued to respond proactively by working with partners to build on the strengths in the skills system and to reshape our services.

As the national skills agency, we are working intensively to ensure the right support is available to those that need it in the months ahead.

Young people hit hardest

Our economic insight tells us that young people are being disproportionately affected by the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market. 

At SDS we work intensively with young people leaving school who aren’t yet in training, further education or work. 

Our highly trained career staff provide one-to-one coaching to support and empower young people to take their next step towards a positive destination.

Careers advisers quickly moved their service online but have now returned to the majority of schools and our high street centres are preparing to open their doors for the first time since March.

Support for school leavers

With the likelihood of an increase in the number of school leavers not in a positive destination we are preparing to provide even greater levels of support across Scotland.

Through its new Young Person’s Guarantee, the Scottish Government has committed to supporting every young person in Scotland into training, employment, education or volunteering.

This new package of support includes £60 million to support school-leavers, including

£10million towards a new ‘Pathway Apprenticeship’.

This will provide work-based learning opportunities for young people to get industry-recognised qualifications and to develop the skills employers want.

Pathway Apprenticeships are being created with learning providers and employers as an immediate, short-term response to the Covid-19 pandemic supporting young people who will face limited employment opportunities.

In-career support

The Scottish Government’s Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) is a partnership of 22 organisations designed to support individuals through the redundancy process.

Through PACE, SDS is extending a programme of online and webinar services that will provide support to those facing redundancy.

The Scottish Government also recently announced a new £25 million training fund which will help people retrain re-skill to develop their career. 

SDS is one of a number of agencies working to develop this training fund, which will provide short-term training opportunities led by employment prospects.

Our popular Individual Training Accounts are also being expanded to provide more training opportunities to improve job outcomes

Protecting apprentices, creating opportunities

There are currently around 36,000 apprentices in training in jobs across Scotland and safeguarding their future is one of our very highest priorities.

We recognise and thank the employers across the country who are supporting and sustaining their apprentices through the crisis. 

Over recent months we’ve worked with Scottish Government and learning providers to ensure that apprentices have the support they need.

This has included grants for learning providers; providing flexibility for assessment and certification; and ensuring apprentices who have had a break in training due to the pandemic can pick up their learning again.

The Scottish Government recently announced further support for apprentices.

This includes an enhanced ‘Adopt an Apprentice’ service that incentivises employers to take on redundant apprentices and support for unemployed apprentices to complete their training.

Here to help

The global pandemic is the greatest challenge any of us have ever faced. The economic impact is far-reaching and will be long-lasting.

But with the collective effort of Scottish Government and its agencies, the public sector and private sector employers we can ensure that the right help is there for those who need it most.

If your education, employment or future choices have been affected by COVID-19, Skills Development Scotland can help you get back on track.


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