A group of 10 Scottish apprentices have become the latest victims of the oil and gas downturn.
The young men, all aged between 17 and 20, were let go at the start of this year from Aberdeenshire based deck machinery company Ace Winches.
It comes as global energy prices continue to cause widespread cost-cutting measures and job losses in the supply chain.
A specialist training firm is now calling on employers to consider taking on the youngsters and giving them the opportunity to complete their qualifications.
And the Scottish Government is offering a £5,000 incentive in the hope that businesses will help nurture the new talent.
The government incentive is part of the Adopt an Apprentice scheme, which aims to get redundant apprentices back into work as quickly as possible.
ITCA Training, which isbased in Dyce, Aberdeen, said the nine apprentice engineers and one fabricator/welder would make excellent additions to established firms.
Recent figures show that the north-east of Scotland has the highest number of redundancies for apprentices in Scotland.
The number of new apprenticeship starts in 2016 dropped by 40 per cent in Aberdeen and 14 per cent in Aberdeenshire compared to the year before.
June Jones, managing director of ITCA, said: “It is very alarming that another business is shedding a large number of apprentices that have yet to complete their training.
“The figures indicating the high percentage of apprenticeship redundancies in the north-east, as well as the drop in the number of new starts, are extremely concerning.
“If this carries on much longer then it will result in a skills gap and a severe shortage of skilled workers in the future.”
She added: “We appreciate that the market is incredibly tough at the moment, but it is the responsibility of businesses to employ and grow their own talent.
“We hope that employers will come forward to claim the £5,000 incentive by taking on an apprentice. By doing so, they will enable a young learner to complete their apprenticeship and will help to safeguard the future of home-grown talent in the north-east.”
The head count reduction at Ace Winches was yet another blow to youngsters trying to break into the industry at one of the toughest times in the history of North Sea oil and gas.
A total of 17 apprentices were made redundant from the now defunct Enterprise Engineering Services (EES) last year.