SECTT to hold talks with minister over access to Apprenticeship Employer Grants

SECTT to hold talks with minister over access to Apprenticeship Employer Grants

Anne Galbraith

Access to Scottish Government Apprenticeship Employer Grants for companies in the electrical sector is to be discussed at ministerial level following an intervention by the industry’s training specialist.

The Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT) is due to meet Jamie Hepburn MSP, the minister for business, fair work and skills, later this month to try and resolve the issue.

The action was initiated after being discussed by SECTT, electrotechnical trade association SELECT and the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB) in response to concerns raised by businesses that they were being unfairly excluded from the scheme.

The grants scheme, which opens this month (January 2021), was a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides sums of up to £5,000 for employers to take on an apprentice or upskill an existing member of staff through apprenticeship.

However, the grants are only valid for apprentices recruited after 1 December 2020. This directly and adversely affects the electrical industry, which aligns with the academic year and has already taken on some 470 apprentices since the late summer of 2020.

Anne Galbraith, chief executive of SECTT, said: “It almost feels that we are being punished – and are certainly being disadvantaged – for being responsible and reliable and for being ahead of the game by encouraging employers to give young people a chance.

“Given that the industry has gone the extra mile not only to afford young people a future, but to enhance its skillsets, it would seem reasonable to ask that the eligibility date could be backdated to the start of the academic year, when so many electrical firms hired.

“Alternatively, the Scottish Government could simply provide a fixed amount for employers who take on apprentices, rather than imposing this arbitrary time restriction.”

Ms Galbraith said that she was looking forward to discussions with the minister, who said in December: “We are taking every step within our power to create a stronger, more resilient, sustainable economy as we work to recover from the pandemic.”

She said: “We are very grateful to Mr Hepburn for his prompt response and for listening to our concerns and we are keen to work on behalf of SELECT and the SJIB to find a solution which is fair to everyone.

“As things stand, the only people who will benefit from the scheme are private and in-house training providers, and it does not seem equitable that we have become ineligible as a result of being organised and proactive.”

Fiona Harper, the secretary of the SJIB, said: “Electrical businesses have always shown a strong commitment to apprenticeships and the future of our sector, which makes such a significant impact on the Scottish economy and I am sure there was no intention to disadvantage these employers.

“I am optimistic that the talks between SECTT and Mr Hepburn will find a way to resolve this issue.”

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