THE increasing popularity of modern apprenticeships helped Scottish Enterprise to achieve 21 out of the 22 targets it set for itself during the past year.
The agency, under political and media pressure over its stewardship of the Scottish economy and skills development, pointed out in its annual report that it had helped 25,387 young people into modern apprenticeship programmes in 2002-03, 27 per cent ahead of its target and nearly 10,000 more than two years ago.
But these figures represent the total numbers in training. The number of modern apprenticeships actually achieved was a more modest 6,404 although that, too, is ahead of the 5,000 target.
The figures were partly boosted by the decision to remove the age cap on modern apprenticeships, so anyone can now start before reaching their 25th birthday. Access was also opened up to adults in work, and recruitment was helped by the targeting of key occupational areas which had skills gaps.
The new skills and learning targets will remain in line with the targets set for last year rather than the performance. The aim is to have 25,000 modern apprentices in training and 5,750 achieved. Scottish Enterprise also hopes to have 6,000 adult modern apprentices in training. The agency allocated pound;151 million of its budget last year to skills and learning programmes, nearly a third of its annual budget. The bulk of it - more than pound;67 million - went towards modern apprenticeships, the Skillseekers programme and the "get ready for work" initiative.
In his last annual report as Scottish Enterprise's chief executive, Robert Crawford underlined the significance of the decision to integrate Careers Scotland fully into the agency's network. "It will give Scotland the unique advantage of having skills and careers development truly at the heart of its economic development."