Last week, the Scottish Government’s budget underlined the importance that we are placing on education.
Overall, total investment in education and skills will go up by £170 million in 2017/18. We will invest an initial £60m in the infrastructure required to deliver our transformational childcare reforms; Scotland’s schools will get £120 million more to tackle the attainment gap; for the sixth year running we will invest more than £1 billion in our world-class university sector and we will continue to fund our expansion of modern apprenticeships.
The budget also delivered for Scotland’s college sector.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting West Lothian College to see some of the fantastic facilities that are helping the college staff equip the students with the skills they need for employment. The whole college is focused on helping students plan their progression – whether that is into work, or onto further study.
To better meet the demands of the community and industry, the college has expanded its course range and improved its facilities in engineering, construction and computing. It also built a £1.1m skills centre with the support of the Scottish Funding Council.
For example, I was really interested to see the fantastic work going on in the college’s new joinery and woodwork workshop, which is helping young people develop the practical skills they need to enter the construction industry.
Last week’s budget will ensure that more colleges across Scotland are able to focus their offering and improve their facilities just has West Lothian has.
Despite a very tight financial settlement, we have increased college funding overall by 7.4% in cash-terms and by 5.9% in real-terms compared with the 2016-17 draft budget. College resource funding is up £21 million to £551.3 million – a real-terms increase of 2.5% over the year. Over the same period, college capital funding is up £20.4 million to £47.4 million – a real-terms increase of 73%.
This settlement – which has been welcomed by the sector – will allow colleges to continue the great work they do in their communities preparing students to take their place in the workforce of the future.