The Scottish Government took its first steps this week to honour its pledge to create another 7,800 apprenticeships in 2009-10 by unveiling a new initiative with Scottish and Southern Energy.
Amid scepticism that the target will ever be reached in a recession (it is a 73 per cent increase on apprenticeships started this year, at a cost of Pounds 16 million), Education and Lifelong Learning Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced that more than 100 individuals would be taken on by SSE to pilot a home energy apprenticeship programme.
Ms Hyslop hopes this will act as a spur to other employers to follow suit, and she pointed out that half the adult workforce in Scotland was now eligible for support for training.
The announcement was made at an "apprenticeship summit" in Edinburgh on Tuesday, attended by representatives from business, education and training. It follows earlier steps such as the Pounds 6m given to Glasgow City Council to create 1,000 new modern apprenticeship places over the next three years.
The Government has also given apprentices a guarantee that, if they lose their jobs, "we would do everything we can" to find them work andor training. At the beginning of April, 872 apprentices had been made redundant in Scotland; only 265 have found alternative places.
Jim McColl, chief executive of Clyde Blowers, who began as an apprentice and who chaired the summit, urged employers not to pull back from investing in the skills of their workforce, which would be essential to drive forward company profitability.