THE number of young people in North Ayrshire who have joined a Modern Apprenticeship scheme has increased by almost 100 per cent in the last eight years, according to figures.

A report from Skills Development Scotland has shown that the number has increased by 99.3 per cent since 2007 from 446 youngsters to 889.

The figures in the region are much higher than Scotland as a whole with an increase of 59.7 per cent nationally.

The SNP Government made a target of reaching 25,000 Modern Apprenticeships for this year and has passed that already with 25,247 places and the party has set the goal of 30,000 by 2020.

Cunninghame North MSP, Kenneth Gibson, is pleased that his party’s plans have improved the scheme dramatically in North Ayrshire.

He said: “This huge increase in apprenticeships in North Ayrshire – each of which is linked to a job, unlike south of the border – ensures that more young people are being given an opportunity to get into work, learn a skill and secure a better future.

“I am particularly pleased that we are doing so much better in North Ayrshire than almost anywhere else in Scotland and for that SNP led North Ayrshire Council, working in partnership with local employers, Ayrshire College, the SNP Government, its agencies and Jobcentre Plus must take credit. “Apprenticeships are a key part of the SNP Government’s successful youth employment strategy. However, it is simply wrong that due to the discriminatory regulations of the UK Government, many apprentices could find themselves earning less than £3 per hour.

 “It’s absolutely vital that we can continue to attract more young people into the Modern Apprentice programme and that they aren’t put off by the disincentive of low pay.  That’s why it is vital that powers to tackle low pay are devolved to Scotland so we can take further action to deliver a fairer wage for apprentices and ensure they have the support needed to do well.” Labour councillor and candidate for the Cunninghame South seat in the 2016 Scottish election, Joe Cullinane, believes that the SNP are focusing on the statistics and not the quality of apprenticeships.

He said: “The SNP’s approach to apprenticeships is all about a numbers game. Their focus is on quantity rather than delivering the quality apprenticeships that offer life changing opportunities to young people.

“Take the SNP led North Ayrshire Council’s apprenticeship scheme for example, 90 per cent of the apprenticeships offered by North Ayrshire Council last year were six month apprenticeships at level two.

“These are not the quality apprenticeships that people would have expected in the past. Even the SQA describe level two as being out with the apprenticeship framework and it is something an apprentice ‘works towards initially, and then progresses onto level three or level four’.

“I, for example, know of young people doing a North Ayrshire Council funded apprenticeship who are employed by telemarketing companies who are provided no training and who simply do cold-calling. That’s not an apprenticeship, that’s a young person being exploited by being paid less than their colleagues for doing the same job.

“Furthermore, there is evidence that across Scotland people already in work are being put through apprenticeships by their employers in what is a sure fire way of ensuring that the Scottish Government meet their targets in order for them to issue self-congratulatory press statements such as Mr Gibson’s.

“The SNP have been in power at Holyrood for eight years and at the council for three. The time has come for them to stop talking a good game and start using the powers they have, at all levels of government, to actually deliver.”