Concern over shortfall in young apprentices
Not enough young people faced with choosing their careers are taking up modern apprenticeships, elected members have heard.
Council officials have also highlighted a gender imbalance in those who do seek alternatives to university courses.
Head of development Neil Grant’s warning came at a meeting of this morning’s education and families meeting.
Figures brought to the town hall said a total of 49 new start modern apprentices had been recruited to local businesses by Train Shetland during 2015/16.
“There are not enough young people willing to take up modern apprentice places,” Mr Grant told councillors, although he said the Shetland Learning Partnership was “in the right zone” for addressing the problem.
The other good news is that those who are taking part in the schemes are doing well. Figures show Shetland is the second highest performing local authority area in Scotland, with the success rate standing at 83 per cent. That is just a whisker below the highest performing area – Angus – at 84 per cent, and well beyond the 77 per cent national average.
Moreover, the figure for achievement rates in Shetland rises to 84 per cent when applied to 20-24 year-olds, and 85 per cent in relation to those 25 and over.
More of a concern is a fall in full-time further education numbers because of a change “in status” of marine cadet students.
Mr Grant said the reduction was a “concern” because of how the college was focused on full-time, further education scholars.
“Overall numbers are relatively stable, but I think the reduction in FT FE [full-time further education] is certainly a concern,” he said.
Frank Robertson wondered if there were other apprenticeship schemes with “professional elements” such as surveying or architecture.
Development’s Tommy Coutts said there was sometimes demand although there was a limited recruitment pool.
“We do, on occasions, get demand for more specific, professional-focused apprenticeships and we do deliver on them where we can.”
However, he said organisations such as butchers and bakers had their own apprenticeship schemes.
Michael Stout wondered if there was still a “residual attitude” which placed more value on academic courses and the whole idea of going to university.
“Is there something we could be doing to change that if there is a problem?” he asked.
Mr Coutts said things had altered, at least since the days he was in school when people were “funnelled” towards university.
“We work closely with schools to promote apprenticeships,” he added.
But religious representative Martin Tregonning wanted more information on where the gender imbalance had come from.
Mr Coutts said there had been a particular issue with “occupational segregation”.
“Engineering might tend to be solely male, while the care sectors might be solely female.”
He added there were some female technical apprentices who “tend to get dragged to every school meeting” to highlight the variety of opportunities open to young people.
But it was down to chairwoman Vaila Wishart to make perhaps the most salient point in a room largely bereft of female representatives – both round the table or even, to be fair, on the press bench.
“We just need to look round this table to know that gender balance is a wider issue than what’s going on at the college,” she said.