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Apprentice scheme gets more places

Further Education colleges are bracing themselves for another influx of students

Further Education colleges are bracing themselves for another influx of students

Further Education colleges are bracing themselves for another influx of students after the Scottish Government announced the creation of 5,000 additional apprenticeship places.

Yet again, ministers have turned to Europe for the cash, with pound;4 million out of the total cost of pound;9.1 million being met by the European Social Fund.

The announcement brings the total number of apprenticeships in Scotland to 39,500, and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) believes the new places have the potential to benefit at least 500 employers.

The latest development is particularly significant because the Government has bowed to representations from employers with older staff to widen apprenticeships beyond the 16 to 19 age group. The new places will be funded for people of all ages.

Keith Brown, the Skills Minister, said: "We are out of recession but the recovery remains fragile, which is why we continue to prioritise investment in a range of skills and training opportunities to support people into jobs, to develop them in those jobs and ensure we have a workforce fit for purpose."

Damien Yeates, chief executive of SDS, said that "investment such as this allow us to give support to businesses at a time when they need to be at their most productive, as well as boosting employment opportunities for people across a wide range of sectors".

But the additional training will place additional strains on colleges to cope with the demand. Last year, 20,216 people started an apprenticeship, exceeding the target of 18,500. And the Scottish Funding Council secured pound;15 million beyond its normal allocations for colleges to create 4,100 extra FE places in the 2010-11 academic session.

Meanwhile, Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in England, has declared his personal attachment to lifelong learning, due to the role he said it played in helping his mother recover from a mental breakdown. But, although his department has declared lifelong learning to be a priority, critics pointed to Mr Cable's Government's imposition of "efficiency savings" on English colleges amounting to pound;200 million.

neil.munro@tes.co.uk.

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