Cunningham comes to Cumbernauld for Scots Apprenticeship Week

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 17:00 on 21 May 2015

Politics    Scottish Government    Scottish Power

Ms Cunningham meets some of Scottish Power's apprentices. All of the images in this article are used on the courtesy of Bill Henry.

THIS week is Scottish Apprenticeship Week, and to mark the annual event, which aims to highlight the benefits that apprentices bring to businesses, individuals and the economy, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training was in Cumbernauld today (21st May) meeting apprentices at Scottish Power’s Cumbernauld base.

Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training met staff at Scottish Power’s site near Wardpark industrial estate, in Cumbernauld.

The company’s Dealain House, in Napier Road is home to around 200 members of staff, but on an early morning visit to the office block, Ms Cunningham met only a handful of Scottish Power employees. 

Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2015 runs until this Friday (22nd May), and was launched officially by the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, Keith Brown, on a visit to the Forth Road Bridge.

Housing minister, Margaret Burgess, then marked the start of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, in Kilwinning, by launching a national challenge for housing apprentices.

Apprentice Challenge.

Ms Burgess was promoting the Scottish Federation of Housing Association’s Apprentice Challenge, which will see 20 young people from housing associations and co-operatives across Scotland take on a two-day challenge during the SFHA’s annual conference. 

The Skills Development Scotland (SDS)-backed project will see young people work in teams to devise a communications strategy which could be implemented by a social landlord to help tackle and raise awareness of problems that are common amongst tenants such as social isolation, fuel poverty and mental health issues.

Launching the project on Monday, Housing minister Margaret Burgess said: “Apprenticeship Week 2015 is about showcasing the positive impact Modern Apprentices have on businesses and industry and the value they bring to employers and their own job prospects. The apprentices taking part in the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations Apprentice Challenge are a small group of a much greater number who are being supported to create enthusiastic and skilled workers in the housing sector.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting young people towards jobs and apprenticeships, with an aim to have 30,000 new opportunities by 2020. By employing Modern Apprentices, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations’ members are helping create a dynamic and experienced workforce.”

Mary Taylor, chief executive of the SFHA, added: “We are delighted that the Housing Minister is launching our 2015 Apprentice Challenge as this highlights the importance of apprenticeships in the social housing sector. Apprenticeships can give young people the vital skills and experience which they need to gain permanent employment, and nurturing young talent now will benefit the sector in the future.

“We decided to hold the challenge again this year, as it is an excellent way of consolidating the apprentices’ learning, and we must engage with young people in our sector, as they are a vital part of keeping it fresh and forward thinking.”

The housing apprenticeship challenge was launched after the Scottish Government confirmed that a further £125,000 will be invested in apprenticeships, in a bid to encourage more women into the core STEM career-pathways: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Cash boost for CareerWISE project.

On Sunday (17th May), Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training, Roseanna Cunningham announced that the Scottish Government would provide the CareerWISE initiative with a funding boost of £125,000 in an effort to break down gender barriers.

CareerWISE, which is delivered by Equate Scotland at Edinburgh Napier University, was created in 2013 to raise awareness of STEM careers for girls from school age onwards.

Announcing the extra funding on Sunday, the Cabinet Secretary said: “The CareerWISE programme has made a considerable impact over the last 18 months however there remains the need to address gender balance in the STEM sectors in Scotland.”

“The Scottish Government still firmly believes that there is no such thing as a job for a boy or a job for a girl. Our continued support for the CareerWISE programme and its new focus to support young women access STEM MAs sits at the heart of our drive for a more productive and fairer work place.”

Ms Cunningham added: “I am very pleased to be able to fund this very specific piece of work that CareerWISE will take forward. This is further illustration of our determination to respond positively to recommendations of the report into Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce.

“We need more women to take up non-traditional career paths to achieve gender equality in the workplace. We are also committed to creating 30,000 new MA opportunities every year by 2020 and more women placed in STEM sectors will help us move towards that goal.

“This year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week looks like being the biggest yet with dozens of events up and down the country with a number of Scottish ministers getting involved in both local and national initiatives. BT have already seized the initiative by announcing 90 new MA posts on Friday, and I hope the next week’s activity encourages even more employers to consider the advantages of MAs to their business and the wider economy.”

Also commenting on the news was Damien Yeates, Chief Executive of Skills Development Scotland. He welcomed the announcement, praising apprenticeships as a “valuable” career option.

Mr Yeates said: “Modern Apprenticeships provide excellent opportunities for young people to work, learn and earn.

“Programmes such as CareerWISE help young women see the real benefits of Modern Apprenticeships and work-based learning as valuable career options.

“We want Scottish Apprenticeship Week to inspire young people to find out about apprenticeships and take up the great opportunities apprenticeships provide to give their careers a great start.”

500 new apprenticeships.

The news that the CareerWISE project is set to receive a windfall of £125,000 was soon followed by an announcement that the Scottish Government will boost apprenticeship funding by £3.8 million, a move which looks set to create 500 new apprenticeships in Scotland.

The top-up funding mean that more opportunities for young people still at school will be established, through work-based Foundation Apprenticeships for senior secondary pupils, which will provide industry recognised qualifications and first hand insight into the world of work.

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced the extra funding on Monday (18th May), claiming that the 500 places are the first step to expand Skills Development Scotland’s current apprentice programme from 25,000 to 30,000 by 2020.

Commenting, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It’s vitally important that all of our young people in Scotland - no matter their background – have the opportunities available to get on in life.

“Apprenticeships not only offer our young people better job prospects – they also have a positive impact on businesses and industry, bringing value to employers and our economy.

“We have already seen youth unemployment reach its lowest level in seven years and with further investment in our young workforce - like these 500 apprenticeships - we can hope to see that continue to improve.

“I also want to make sure that these opportunities are open to everyone. Traditionally, some sectors have been dominated by men and women have felt that there are barriers to them entering.

“As we continue the expansion of our successful apprenticeship programmes we need to make sure that more young women are aware of the tremendous opportunities that an apprenticeship provides.

“I want our young women – as well as our young men - to be inspired and supported to achieve whatever they want in life,” Ms Sturgeon added.

Scottish Power visit. 

While in Cumbernauld today, the Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training made no big headline-grabbing policy announcements. Instead, Ms Cunningham chose to meet with the ordinary members of staff at Scottish Power’s Cumbernauld site, all of whom were apprentices, working to keep the lights in Scotland on.

Touring the company’s plant for 90 minutes this morning, Ms Cunningham met six of Scottish Power’s apprentices, discussing the reasons that led them to become apprentices, and talking about the issue of gender inequality within the so-called ‘STEM’ apprenticeship subject areas.

Talking to Cumbernauld Media after her visit, the Cabinet Secretary said she had met a group of “fantastic young people” on her visit.

Ms Cunningham chats to Cumbernauld Media's Scott Campbell. All of the images in this article are used on the courtesy of Bill Henry.
“It’s a great week - it’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week, and my visit here to Scottish Power’s plant in Cumbernauld, as part of this week-long celebration of modern apprenticeships, was to launch the Scottish Modern Apprentice of the Year award,” Ms Cunningham explained.

“During my visit I’ve been able to meet some fantastic young people, who’ve come from quite different backgrounds, and came into apprenticeships through different stages of their school – and in one case university – careers,” the Cabinet Secretary added.

“It just goes to show the variety of different ways by which people can get into a modern apprenticeship, and the stories of the young people today were really, really interesting – they’re all training, effectively, to be electricians and electrical engineers, and it’s great to see such skills being passed on in this way.”

Asked about gender inequalities within modern apprenticeship programmes – a key of the week-long series of events, aiming to promote the benefits that a modern apprenticeship can bring to both the apprentice and the wider Scottish economy – Ms Cunningham said.

Apprentices work away. All of the images in this article are used on the courtesy of Bill Henry.

“The Scottish Government is working very hard to try to work out what the barriers are, and it was interesting listening to Sarah, one of the apprentices, earlier on, because the problem there was quite clearly perceptions of friends and perhaps some teachers (not all), which bore down on her to the point where she decided against going to University to study engineering, which is what she thought she wanted to do originally. 

“Fortunately, Sarah has found a sneaky way of doing something along the lines of what she originally wanted to do anyway, which is fantastic, and the stories of girls like her, I think, are really important as we are try to get away from the idea of there being ‘girl jobs’ and ‘boy jobs’."

Ms Cunningham talks to the apprentices about their experiences. All of the images in this article are used on the courtesy of Bill Henry.

She added: “It’s very important that we try to shake these perceptions of ‘girl jobs’ and ‘boy jobs’ because, first and foremost, there are huge skill shortages in Scotland, and if there are massive skills shortages, quite apart from the justice and equality side of things, it makes no sense whatsoever for employers to restrict their recruitment to only half the population – that just doesn’t make sense. 

“Therefore, we need to encourage more girls to come in to a much wider range of jobs, and in order to do that I need to work out exactly what the problem is, and we’ve just committed £500,000 to Skills Development Scotland in order to investigate some of these barriers, not just for women, but for people with disabilities and for people from black and ethnic minority communities to see exactly what the problem is in each of these areas, and what it is that we need to fix.”

View our full picture gallery from today's visit by using the interactive slideshow below. All of the pictures used (including those in this article) are used on the courtesy of Bill Henry.