An "army" of trainees is to be recruited in Lanarkshire as part of Scotland's largest Modern Apprenticeship programme, in an effort to "cast off the shadow of steel" from the area.
At the launch of the Lanarkshire Development Agency's annual report, Ian Carmichael, the chief executive, said that the young recruits would lead a skills revolution aimed at re-establishing the area as Scotland's industrial powerhouse. "This development will power forward the area's regeneration and place it at the cutting edge of the new knowledge economy," he claimed.
There will be 2,500 Modern Apprentices this year, an increase of 40 per cent. Two of the newest recruits left school this summer to take up electrical apprenticeships with the Hamilton based contractor E J Stiell.
Eighteen year old Craig McGhie, who left Hamilton Grammar with Higher English and eight Standard grades, said he was attracted by careers publicity in the school.
His fears that he would become a tea boy were unfounded: "I'm pleased to have been doing real jobs since I started, such as re-wiring conduit and assembling light fittings."
He worked with 17-year-old Grant Rafferty for a time on the Dynamic Earth project in Edinburgh, and is currently involved in building an extension to Law Hospital. Their training involves five weeks in Motherwell College and then five on site. They hope to move on to an HNC engineering course when they finish their three year apprenticeship.
The apprenticeship route is becoming very popular with school leavers, according to Grant Rafferty. He left John Ogilvie High in Blantyre this year with a pass in Higher craft and design: "I see the job as a challenge and am glad to get the chance to make a career in electrical engineering."
Lorraine Wingate, aged 19, has already moved up the ranks. She left Ballerup High in East Kilbride at 16 to work in the bottling plant of Burns Stewart Distillers in Airdrie, and was asked to fill in for the accounts department. She is now doing a level 2 Scottish Vocational Qualification in accounts, and intends to proceed to the next level.
The apprenticeship drive will enhance the development agency's links with schools, according to John Cunningham, the director of learning. "Our contacts will increase primarily via the routes we presently use: the careers service and guidance teachers," he said.
Over the next three years the LDA will invest pound;15 million to produce an annual total of 3,000. In the coming year pound;21 million will also be invested in learning and knowledge support to individuals, companies and organisations.
Nationally, the Scottish Executive has set a national target of 20,000 Modern Apprentices by 2002. This will be backed by a drive from Scottish Enterprise to raise awareness and convince teachers, parents and young people of the advantages of Modern Apprenticeships.
III Scotland FE Focus TESJseptember 24J 1999 By John Cairney David Wilson is a Modern Apprentice for EJ Steill on the new Law Hospital Site. The government hopes the new scheme will revive the flagging fortunes of apprenticeships.