Thousands of young Scots have been "left in limbo" after the Scottish Government failed to release a budget for apprenticeships, a training body has warned.

The administration was due to confirm its budget by the start of the financial year on April 6.

However, the BBC says it is not expected to happen until later this month.

Training providers warned of staff redundancies while young people are left waiting to start courses.

The Scottish Government would normally confirm its apprenticeship budget with its own agency, Skills Development Scotland.

That organisation would, in turn, contract with 260 training companies, colleges and employers to provide the courses.

Demand exceeded funding

Last year, there was funding set for 25,000 apprentices, but demand exceeded that.

In previous years, that would lead to further funding being released.

But last autumn there was a freeze on new starts due to a Scottish Government budget squeeze. That left applicants on waiting lists for months.

Without clear funding and cash flow, the Scottish Training Federation said staff will have to be laid off by provider firms.

Stuart McKenna, chief executive for the body representing 140 training providers, said it was a very poor situation.

He told the BBC: "Nobody in Scotland can start a new modern apprenticeship for the foreseeable future, because the budget hasn't been signed off. It's leaving young people, employers and training providers in limbo.

Matter of urgency

"We need the budget to be agreed as a matter of urgency."

Mr McKenna added that demand for placements has never been higher, and called for an increase in the modern apprenticeship programme to 27,000 funded places.

He explained that some employers are offering apprenticeship training as an incentive to retain existing staff and raise their skill levels, at a time when recruiters are struggling to secure and keep the staff they need.

Both the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland sought to reassure around 39,000 apprentices who are already doing courses that their funding is secure and their training will continue.

On new starts, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: "The apprenticeship structures are still in place, and there is nothing to stop employers progressing with apprenticeships that are critical to their business needs.

"There is significant pressure on the budget of the Scottish Government and its agencies as a result of rising costs. But we are working with our partners to finalise budgets and will set out more detail on modern apprenticeship starts later this month."

Seeking clarity

A spokesperson for Colleges Scotland said it was seeking clarity on apprenticeship funding.

They said: "We expect Skills Development Scotland to set out more detail on its approach to contract awards for new starts later this month.

"We would encourage anyone interested in taking up a modern apprenticeship to contact their local college."

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