MSPs have been urged to act against a “skills drought” in Dundee after residents were shut out of top-level government retraining funding.
The Skills Development Scotland-run Employability Fund helps people develop skills to secure a job, progress to more advanced forms of training or fund vocational qualifications.
Dundee had among the highest number of participants at lower skill levels on the scheme between April and December 2018, with 141 individuals signed up at Stage 2 and a further 146 registered at Stage 3.
However, no one living in the city was accepted for the highest grade Stage 4 funding – described by Skills Development Scotland as delivering “industry specific courses and qualifications, customised training for employment and work experience”.
In contrast, places were made available to 196 participants in Fife, 180 in Glasgow and 164 in South Lanarkshire. A total of 1,528 awards were made at the top level across Scotland, with only Dundee and the Western Isles missing out entirely.
North East MSP Bill Bowman pointed to the fact most fund recipients in Dundee are aged 16 to 24 and therefore lack the work experience needed to be granted Stage 4 reskilling.
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“Many of the people who should benefit from the employment fund are only able to do so up to a certain point,” he said.
“Stage 4 skills training will help older people who may have lost out in some of the recent difficulties in Dundee – people who were made redundant by McGill and Michelin, to name just two.
“I believe they will find high-quality alternative jobs with a little assistance. But if someone is 16 to 24 years old, they may not qualify for that same level of support because if traineeships aren’t available, the experience won’t be there.
“In order to make sure there is a continuous pathway from schools into good jobs, and to avoid a skills drought, I’d like to see the Scottish Government offer the same level of vocational training to younger people.”
At Holyrood on Tuesday, Mr Bowman challenged business minister Jamie Hepburn on how many people had achieved vocational qualifications at stage 4 as part of the Employability Fund for 2018-19.
It is understood these figures will be made available next month.
The Scottish Conservative MSP said: “What is the minister doing to help Dundee people now stuck in this bottleneck to employment, and to address a potential skills drought?”
Mr Hepburn insisted the Scottish Government would “seek to work with a range of organisations in any area to respond to specific demand”.
“If there is a particular “bottleneck”—as the member put it—in Dundee, it is incumbent on us to examine that,” he said.
“I have heard what Mr Bowman has said, and I will gladly take the issue away to consider what more we might have to do in Dundee.
“However, we will continue to invest in the Employability Fund this year, as last year, and it will continue to support many thousands of people across the country, including in Dundee.”