Businesses in Scotland will receive £5,000 for each apprentice they employ, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Speaking at the SNP conference, she announced the move for those aged between 16 and 24 and up to the age of 29 for those who are disabled, from minority communities or care leavers. For apprentices over the age of 25, the first minister pledged to pay £3,500.
That is significantly more than businesses in England receive for their apprentices – in his spending review last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that incentive payments for hiring a new apprentice introduced in the Plan for Jobs would be extended to 31 March 2021.
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These were first announced this summer in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses are paid £2,000 per apprentice for each young apprentice they hire, and £1,500 for every apprentice aged 25 or over.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon also announced a £100 per week allowance along with work-based training for school leavers up to the age of 18. She said: “This investment will enable thousands more young people to secure an apprenticeship as they start their working lives.”
In his spending review speech in Parliament last week, Rishi Sunak pledged £2.5 billion of funding for apprenticeships and further improvements for employers. He said the government would “improve the way the apprenticeship system works for businesses”.
The documents published alongside the speech set out that from August of next year, employers that pay the apprenticeship levy would be able to transfer unspent levy funds “in bulk” to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a new “pledge function”.
Provider representatives acknowledged the pressure on the government purse but said more support was needed. “We know the pressures on the public finances are huge and we welcome the employer incentives for apprenticeships, but AELP remains very concerned that, without wage subsidies, apprenticeship opportunities are going to remain scarce when Kickstart appears more attractive to employers and young people," said Jane Hickie, managing director of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers.