Irvine Times, Tuesday August 28, 2018

Last week I had the chance to work as ‘an Apprentice for a Day’ at the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) plant in Irvine. It was another opportunity to see for myself the continuing success of the Scottish Government’s initiative to boost the number of Modern Apprenticeships across the country.

GSK Apprentice for the Day 2 - edit

During my visit I had the pleasure to meet Shannon, who has just started to train as an apprentice, and Matthew who recently completed his training and who now works for the firm. Shannon noted that she had always wanted to do something practical upon leaving school, and that her apprenticeship was providing her with the perfect opportunity to learn a range of skills within a trade. Matthew added that the chance to experience different roles throughout his apprenticeship had helped to make him work-ready upon its completion, and to understand what the expectations would be of him in employment at different stages of his career.

GSK Apprentice for the Day 1Since the SNP came to office in 2007 over a quarter of a million people have started a Modern Apprenticeship, with some 27,145 people commencing training in 2017-18 alone, surpassing the Government’s target of 27,000. At GSK I discovered that many of those in the current management team had started their careers through the apprenticeship route, and I was especially pleased to learn that all the firm’s apprentices from last year are now in employment, reaffirming the success of the apprenticeship scheme locally in North Ayrshire in its drive to prepare our future workforce.

Of course, a key uncertainty for businesses and employment over the next few years will be Brexit. This week the UK Government published the first batch of ‘Technical Notices’ to prepare for the possibility of leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement on 29 March 2019, without a transition period. The notices lay bare the risks facing Scottish businesses, the economy and public services. I personally found them to be less than reassuring, and merely illustrate the bureaucratic burden that will be imposed on EU imports and exports, adding only to the further uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Next week I will be spending a day to help plan the business of the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee for the forthcoming parliamentary session. A key part of our work over the next few months will be our inquiry into social security and in-work poverty. We will be investigating how the roll-out of Universal Credit across Scotland is impacting on support services, looking into the experience of those currently in-work and on Universal Credit, and examining what is known about those experiencing in-work poverty but who do not claim Universal Credit.

Another issue of concern to the Committee is the growing rise in food bank use. North Ayrshire Food Bank is currently desperately short of food, and is appealing for further donations of tinned meat, pasta, pasta sauces, tinned corn, tinned fruit, rice pudding, UHT milk, tinned potatoes and beans. If you can help, pleased make a donation to the Church of the Nazarene on Glasgow Street, Ardrossan. You can also contribute money, with details on how to do so available at https://northayrshire.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-money/.