An “ambitious” target of recruiting 26,000 Modern apprentices (MA) for 2016/17 has been set by the Scottish Government.

Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Roseanna Cunningham, outlined the importance of apprentices to the economy and in tackling young unemployment.

“Modern Apprentices are key to delivering economic development and a strong economy,” she said at the launch of Scottish Apprenticeship Week (February 29 to March 4).

Over the past four years, the Scottish Government has exceeded its original target of 25,000 MA opportunities each year.

After 2016/17, the next milestone is to have 30,000 apprentices a year by 2020.

In 2007, Scotland had just 15,000 people starting Modern Apprenticeships.  

Since then, more than 190,000 starts have been delivered, with 101,000 of these coming in the last four years alone.

“It is crucial that we continue to invest, not only in our young people by making sure that they have the right opportunities to learn and develop their skills and gain access to the labour market, but also to support industry and business right across Scotland”, Ms Cunningham said.

During Scottish Apprenticeship Week ministers will be visiting employers to see the difference MAs make.

John F McClelland CBE, Chair of Skills Development Scotland, which organises the week, said: “More and more employers see the benefits that apprentices bring to their businesses.

“Apprenticeships mean businesses can find the talent they need for the growth they want.”

Ross Martin, Chief Executive of Scottish Council for Development & Industry believes it’s essential for the country’s productivity that the transition from school to employment is made easier.