Police Scotland – the country’s single police force – will begin recruiting to its apprenticeship programme for civilian roles next month, in a move to increase the proportion of staff aged 16 to 24, which currently stands at just 2 per cent.
But Unison Scotland has pledged to “keep a watchful eye” to make sure the recruitment scheme isn’t implemented merely to cut costs, after Police Scotland admitted that there are “financial benefits” to the apprenticeship drive.
Details of which departments in Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority will take on apprentices have yet to be released, but with no additional funding being provided, it will largely depend on departmental budgetary constraints, reported Holyrood.
Police Scotland HR business partner Alasdair Muir said: “There are the financial benefits of recruiting modern apprentices. This includes the effective abolition of the requirement to pay Class 1 Employer National Insurance Contributions.
“In quite crude terms, but linked to a prospective programme of 30 apprentices being paid at SPA Band A, the overall cost would be approximately £70,000 less than recruitment for the same number of conventional staff roles at the same level, albeit it is appreciated that in the initial stages the apprentices are likely to be less experienced and effective.
“Added to potential third-party funding, there is a persuasive financial argument.”
The two-year work-based training programme would see apprentices paid the Scottish Living Wage and kept on in permanent jobs “where possible”, Muir added.
More than 2,000 civilian staff jobs have been cut since 2010, according to Unison Scotland, as part of a drive to maintain police officer numbers above 17,234. A spokesperson for the union told Holyrood that it was keen to make sure that the apprenticeship scheme was not used as a smokescreen for bringing in cheap labour to replace redundant staff.
“We’re supportive of the idea of modern apprenticeships in terms of allowing people access to work or getting people the skills to return to work,” the spokesperson said.
“A lot of the rhetoric has been about getting young people into Police Scotland but it is not just about [that], it’s anyone that can come forward to join a modern apprenticeship. We are supportive of that.
“However, what we don’t want to see is this being used to bring people into jobs for effectively less money.
“We would be hopeful that their intention is not to let people go on voluntary redundancy and then bring them in on modern apprenticeships so that it’s less money.”