Apprenticeships change lives – I know it changed mine

Back in 2008, I completed my apprenticeship in Business Administration at Glasgow Credit Union.

Even to this day, it’s still one of my proudest achievements. Ten years down the line, I’m now the Member of Parliament for my home area and I’m delighted to be joining parliamentary celebrations for Scottish Apprenticeship Week.

The fact that apprentices from Glasgow’s East End can go on to become legislators in Parliament speaks a lot about the modern, ambitious Scotland we live in – a Scotland in which nothing is off limits for any youngster.

At just 16 years old, I knew I didn’t want to stay on for fifth or sixth year at High School and my plans to join the police were scuppered when I missed out on the Standard Entrance Test by just half a mark.

Thankfully, I was incredibly fortunate to secure an apprenticeship with Glasgow City Council, where I completed my Modern Apprenticeship at Glasgow Credit Union. My time as an apprentice allowed me the ability to study and work at the same time which was exactly the challenge I had been looking for.

Equally, working in Glasgow Credit Union also reaffirmed many of my political beliefs – that is to always pull together as a community, to redistribute wealth and to look out for those who are most vulnerable in our communities.

When you think of an apprentice, it normally conjures up the image of an electrician, joiner or plumber but the truth is – apprenticeships have changed enormously over the years and they’ve been given much greater prominence in our economy.

That’s why I’m so pleased that the SNP has made a bold commitment to deliver 30,000 new apprenticeships a year by 2020, giving other young people the opportunity to go on and flourish in their chosen career.

It’s important to remember that further or higher education isn’t for everyone. Because think about it, if your pipes are leaking, you don’t want a lawyer – you want a plumber! That’s why investing in apprenticeships is so important and will continue to be important for this SNP Scottish Government.

I may have finished my apprenticeship a decade ago but I still use my skills today and I’ve not forgotten my roots or how I got to Parliament. That’s why I’m campaigning for a proper Living Wage for everyone – regardless of age or background.

The UK government’s con trick of a national living wage still doesn’t apply to under 25s and this means that, under UK law, apprentices today can still be paid as little as just £3.50 per hour, which is nothing short of poverty pay. All of us would surely agree that a fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.

As an MP, I’m not prepared to pull the ladder up behind me and I’ll continue to use my position in Westminster to bang the drum for more apprenticeships and a real, national living wage.

Apprenticeships can change lives – and I know, because it changed mine.