Mark McDonald, MSP for Aberdeen Donside addresses parliament regarding employment. See the video below and click "read more" to view the full text.
- This Monday, I will have the pleasure of presenting awards to 119 modern apprentices who will have completed their learning at ITCA Training in my constituency in disciplines including mechanical engineering, fabrication, welding, logistics operation management, and business and administration. This Government’s commitment to modern apprenticeships goes without saying, given that more than 25,000 a year are being delivered, and that there is a new target of 30,000 a year by 2020. If we look within the figures, we see that 80 per cent of modern apprenticeship starts in 2014-15 were people aged 16 to 24. It is predominately young people who are being given those opportunities to develop skills and access employment.
Locally in Aberdeen, The Press and Journal has launched a campaign to create 100 apprentices in 100 days. I was advised by ITCA that it is about to graduate 119 apprentices in one day, but the newspaper campaign is an important one. It is about highlighting the value of apprenticeships across the north-east’s economy and giving companies the opportunity to reflect on what they can do to support more young people through apprenticeships.
A view that is often held about the north-east is that it is an area of high employment and low unemployment, and the statistics bear that out. However, some individuals require support to access employment opportunities. A past difficulty, which is to some extent still current, has been that having a buoyant industry that can afford to pay a higher rate than other sectors means that some of those other sectors face recruitment difficulties.
With that in mind, over the past couple of years I have held two jobs fairs in the constituency. One was a general jobs fair, which had employers from across a range of sectors. The other, which took place just last week, focused specifically on the care sector, which has been mentioned a lot in the debate. The difference in attendance levels at the two events was interesting. Although the organisations that attended were positive about the events, attendance levels at the care sector jobs fair were noticeably lower. Part of that comes down to perception. We need to consider carefully how we get around that. There is often a misconception about what working in the care sector involves and the type and quality of work that is available. A job of work needs to be done to ensure that such sectors are given the opportunity to promote the valuable work that is available and the strong opportunities that exist.
I have met local companies to discuss living wage accreditation. I hear from my colleagues about their efforts to become accredited living wage employers. I had better get my act together and lead by example by becoming an accredited living wage employer, too. I noted in a Scottish Government response to a parliamentary question that we have many accredited living wage employers. Although that is absolutely fantastic, if we look at the percentage of the population who it is assumed are being paid above that rate, it shows that many companies have not yet taken the step to become accredited living wage employers. I want to promote to those companies the benefits that come from becoming an accredited living wage employer and the message that that sends out to their current and potential workforce.
On other employment issues in the north-east, the Wood commission report “Education Working For All! Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce Final Report” has been mentioned. Aberdeen and the north-east have been early adopters. The developing young workforce team is being led by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, alongside Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council and North East Scotland College. The work is designed specifically to look at how we can make easier young people’s transitions through the education system and into the workforce. It takes very much the approach that Iain Gray highlighted. I do not think that we would necessarily be reinventing the wheel. A lot of councils are looking carefully at the senior phase of school and how it can be redesigned to complement better what young people will go on to, whether it is further education or higher education. The councils are trying to make those transitions and links a little bit more seamless.
Another area in which we face a difficulty in the north-east is the teaching workforce. A teaching summit is taking place today to talk about how we can attract more teachers to locate there. Perhaps we could look at the work of the energy jobs task force, because a number of people in the oil and gas sector who are facing redundancy will have science, technology, engineering, and mathematics qualifications and may be suitable for retraining into the teaching profession and could take on STEM teaching roles that are proving to be difficult to fill.
- Iain Gray: Will Mark McDonald give way?
- Mark McDonald: I see that I have gone beyond six minutes, so whether I can do so is at the Presiding Officer’s discretion.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer: I can give you a bit of time back if you wish to take the intervention.
- Mark McDonald: I am happy to do so.
- Iain Gray: I agree with the idea of trying to get people to retrain as STEM teachers, but it remains the case that, if someone chooses to retrain as a physics teacher in England, they will receive £25,000 in a tax-free bursary. That is not available in Scotland. Would not it be a good thing if it was?
- Mark McDonald: Committing to such things is way above my pay grade, but in fairness I think that we need to look very carefully at the opportunities that are made available for individuals to retrain in teaching. Something that often puts people off retraining is the possibility of a year without pay. We need to look at making that transition better for people. Some local authorities are considering offering part-time teacher-training courses, which would allow people to train without necessarily having to give up work. There are a number of measures that we need to look at to improve the uptake of teacher training.
I will leave it at that. Some of the allegations that Opposition members have made probably merit closer examination but, on the whole, it has been a fairly consensual debate, and I would hate to ruin that tone. All that I will say is that the Scottish Government should be commended for the work that it is doing on apprenticeships and the living wage, and that we need to talk up more the work that is being done to boost employment opportunities and employment performance in Scotland.
- - See more at: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10121&i=93437#sthash.zzEzOBeZ.dpuf