During a meeting today (Tuesday 3 November) of the Scottish Parliament’s Education & Culture Committee, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur pressed Skills Development Scotland’s management team to explain what steps it is taking to deliver skills training and apprenticeships in Orkney.
Mr McArthur highlighted the additional costs often involved in delivering many training programmes and the challenge in delivering programmes in island communities.
Skills Development Scotland confirmed that an assessment of skills needs across the Highlands & Islands had identified the need to tailor training provision to suit the specific circumstances of each community. It was also felt that a primary challenge for the region was not necessarily skills gaps but finding opportunities that would encourage young people to remain.
Commenting after the Committee, Mr McArthur said:
“It was good to hear Skills Development Scotland recognise the need for local flexibility in the way training programmes are delivered. Orkney College does excellent work in providing opportunities for locally-based training, but more could be done to help increase the chances of young people improving their skills while also reducing the costs for local employers.
“At present, whether it is a case of sending staff south for training or paying for providers to come to Orkney, the cost to Orkney businesses is often higher than for their counterparts on the Scottish mainland. This is not helpful when it comes to keeping Orkney businesses competitive.
“I am encouraged to hear Skills Development Scotland acknowledge the problem and hope we will see additional support being made available to help close this gap in training costs to ensure they remain affordable.
“Moves to allow small businesses in Orkney to share responsibility for in-work apprenticeships are also a step in the right direction. Too often, individual small businesses find it difficult to justify taking on an apprentice, even where they see the obvious benefits. Being able to share that responsibility with others in a similar position would open up more training opportunities for young people and deliver real benefits to the Orkney economy.
“In training provision, as in some many other areas, a one size fits all approach does not work. Recognition of this by Skills Development Scotland is welcome”.