The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has accused the Scottish government of sidelining the third sector after ministers announced how they would hand out the proceeds of the apprenticeship levy north of the border.
The Scottish government yesterday launched the Flexible Workforce Development Fund, a £10m one-year pilot project funded by the apprenticeship levy, through which private, public and voluntary sector employers will be able to apply for grants of up to £10,000 to deliver in-work training to employees, in partnership with colleges.
But Martin Sime, chief executive of the SCVO, said charities were unlikely to benefit from the fund.
All UK organisations with wage bills of at least £3m a year, including charities, are required to pay a levy of 0.5 per cent of their overall payroll amount to the UK government, which then calculates how much of the funding came from Scotland and passes it to the Scottish government.
Sime told Third Sector: "There are charities that pay this levy in Scotland but to date they have no chance of getting any money because of the history of how modern apprenticeships have been organised, which has excluded charities. As a result, there are very few modern apprenticeships run by charities in Scotland. There are a few, but not many."
In a statement, he described the fund as a "convoluted, public sector-dominated" way of distributing the funds.
"This is a totally inadequate response to the UK apprenticeship levy, which will have barely any impact in the third sector," Sime said.
He said the fund failed to "address the fact that valuable charitable donations have had to be handed over for this farce" and was an "example of the third sector being sidelined by Scottish government employability decisions".
In response to Sime’s comments, Jamie Hepburn, the Scottish employability minister, said: "The FWDF pilot is only one element of the £221m package of support we offer in skills and training across the private, public and third sectors in response to the UK government’s apprenticeship levy.
"The overwhelming majority of funding, which includes increased investment in employment support and our expanding apprentice programmes, is available to organisations regardless of their size or whether they pay the levy.
"The FWDF pilot will directly benefit those organisations – regardless of their sector – who will have to pay the levy, recognising this is an unwelcome additional tax by the UK government.
"In addition to the broader skills and training offer, third sector organisations also have access to a number of dedicated programmes to support their capacity and to further develop their workforce, such as through the £6.3m Community Jobs Scotland programme."