South Scotland SNP MSP, Emma Harper, has praised local businesses whom are working with the Scottish Government’s Young Persons Guarantee which supports young people entering the workforce following the covid pandemic.

The Scottish Government’s £70 million of investment through the Young Persons Guaranteeoffers every 16-24 year old in Scotland the opportunity of a job, apprenticeship, further or higher education, training programme or volunteering opportunity.

During a parliamentary debate on Skills and Opportunities (Tuesday 9 November) Ms Harper told Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training, about her visits to Dumfries & Galloway employers. These included visits to Jas P Wilson, BSW Timber, Alpha Solway and Du Pont Teijin, who have increased their number of modern apprenticeship places due to the Young Persons Guarantee.

Ms Harper informed chamber there was also an opportunity within the region to attract young people into working for local manufacturers – such as Alpha Solway.

During her contribution to the debate Ms Harper welcomed the £25 million National Transition Training Fund which has already helped 10,000 people – including 312 across Dumfries and Galloway – to develop the skills required to move into sectors with the greatest potential for future growth.

Focusing on the importance of her rural South Scotland, Ms Harper said she had been contacted by the National Farmers Union who have highlighted the need for rural skills to be a focus of the Fund.

Ms Harper said the agricultural sector requires an efficient, effective, and user-friendly education and skills system, that is responsive to the sectors current and future needs which was particularly important with agriculture to play a huge part in the fight against the climate emergency.

Ms Harper commented;

“I have visited all of these local employers and want to thank them all for what they do and for supporting our next generation workforce.

“However, I have been contacted by local manufacturers – including Alpha Solway whom I visited recently – who feel that more work could be carried out to promote manufacturing as a positive career destination.

“I would therefore ask the Cabinet Secretary to ensure that Skills Development Scotland, and Scottish Government Officials, work with manufacturing firms to ensure young people are aware of the benefits of a career in Scottish manufacturing. This will also help to improve the resilience of Scottish manufacturing supply chains”.

Ms Harper said she supported all initiatives that ensured a professional rural workforce equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge.

“Previously I met with George Jamieson, Policy Officer with National Farmers Union Scotland, about NFUS’s report and recommendations on how to improve the rural workforce, which is increasingly aging. I have written to the Rural Secretary about how these recommendations from NFU Scotland could be taken forward, but would be grateful if the Minister would agree to meet with George Jamieson, Jim Fairlie and I to discuss this matter further.

• Since the Scottish Government £70m funding was officially launched in November 2020, funding has been committed to create up to 18,000 training, job and apprenticeship opportunities for young people.

This includes:

• £45 million for local partnerships to provide training and employer recruitment incentives
• £13.5 million for Colleges, Universities and the Scottish Funding Council to provide industry-focussed courses supporting up to 5,000 young people and employment support for 500 recent graduates
• In addition, £1.5 million has been allocated to increase places on volunteering and third sector programmes