Last week was Scottish Apprenticeship Week the annual celebration and promotion of the contribution apprenticeships make to the Scottish economy. I have always believed apprenticeships are a vital way for young people to learn new skills and discover new career paths, and I was delighted to back Apprenticeship Week 2022.
As part of the week I visited McMillan Coppersmiths & Fabricators in Prestonpans and spoke to some of their current and former apprentices. Every time I speak to employers or apprentices I am struck by how much value they place in apprenticeships and their importance to both the individual and the business.
There is no doubt that progress has been made on developing the range of apprenticeship opportunities available. However, that work has stalled during the pandemic, with around 2,500 fewer Modern Apprenticeship start-ups in the first three quarters of this year compared with the same period in 2019/20.
This is a worrying development and the Scottish government must do more to address and reverse this decline to ensure that young people do not miss out on the huge benefits apprenticeships deliver for them and for our economy.
As the crisis in Ukraine continues, I have been heartened by the wonderful response from communities here in East Lothian and across the South Scotland region I represent at Holyrood. The public have demonstrated solidarity with the besieged Ukrainian people and shown great generosity in donating funds and items to support humanitarian relief for the millions who have been forced to flee the conflict.
The UK government was slow to move on streamlining the process for accepting Ukrainian refugees here, but I hope that we will now be able to play our full part and help those who want to come here.
In the meantime, like everyone else, I can only hope that sanctions and other pressure on Russia will force an end to this devastating illegal invasion sooner rather than later.