6th March 2020

The proposals for change brought about by the Re-create Scalloway project were on display in the Youth Centre last Sunday. Although the turnout could have been better, it was good to see in practical terms what might be achieved for the village following input from the community.

The remnants of the old youth centre building has blighted the waterfront for too many years so its removal would be welcome. As the funding from the Town Centre fund has to be spent before the summer that should happen sooner rather than later.

Monday saw the start of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, sub-titled “Talent without Limits”. Train Shetland tell me that it currently has over 180 apprentices on their books, and I was able to meet some of them at both Hame Fae Hame nursery in Scalloway and at New Craigielea.

In Parliament on Wednesday at the Cross Party Group on Skills four apprentices gave presentations to the meeting, and they reinforced what I’d heard in Shetland on Monday.

Apprenticeships have sometimes in the past been treated as though not being of the same value for young people who decide that university is not for them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The experience of learning, training and working can be rewarding and valuable for both the apprentice and employer. It is long past time, if we are to have a skilled workforce, that all options are presented to young people as they consider their future after school.

On Wednesday at a debate about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects in early years education I was able to make the point that curiosity in early years can foster a lifelong interest in science and technology.

One of the apprentices I met in Parliament is a car mechanic and she highlighted how car technology is rapidly changing that sector with the advancement of electric cars. The apprentices also reported mixed findings about the teaching of STEM subjects when they were are school.

Part of the answer is surely to tackle workload. According to the OECD, Scotland’s teachers work some of the longest hours in the world. With teachers spending so much of their time in front of the class, they don’t have time for personal development that helps them continue improving as teachers.

I see that at long last it looks as though school dinners in Shetland will be paid for through a cashless system and thereby remove exposure to stigma for anyone receiving free school meals. While that’s of course welcome, and I know I’ve said it before, but it is something that the council had the opportunity to do nearly 20 years ago when the Shetland SmartCard was on the go.

Stigma for these kinds of benefits has a particular impact in small communities like Shetland, where gossip and chat can travel like nobody’s business. That’s one more hurdle for those who may already be struggling. Anything we can do to stop that kind of double whammy should be fully supported.

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