Apprentice levy ‘should fund skills academies’

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said funds coming to Scotland from the UK Government’s apprenticeship levy should be spent on vocational skills academies.

Such a move would help industry by addressing skills shortages and giving options to people for whom long college or university courses aren’t appropriate, the FSB said.

In 2017, the Scottish Government will receive a proportion — at least £100 million — of the £3 billion due to be raised annually by the UK government’s apprenticeship levy.

The FSB has urged SNP Ministers in a submission to use some of this funding to honour their manifesto commitment to look at expanding skills academies.

Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “Skills shortages still present a real problem for smaller firms who can find key specialist staff poached by larger competitors.

“The academy model offers new options for both employers and those looking to develop vocational skills.

“These institutions would reach agreement with employers about the skills they need and, in turn, guarantee opportunities for a proportion of the intake.”

In October 2015, deputy first minister John Swinney launched CodeClan – Scotland’s first skills academy which offers intensive 16-week software development courses, accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

The FSB believes CodeClan could accelerate its expansion plans and the industry-led model could be applied to other industries like energy, brewing, data-science or specialist engineering.

Willox added: “With a little bit of imagination and co-operation between industry and education, I’ve no doubt we can make the vocational academy model work on a larger scale.”