The boss of Score Group has accused the Scottish Government of failing apprentice training providers following the closure ITCA in Aberdeen.
Conrad Ritchie, managing director of Score in Peterhead, said ITCA had been a “figurehead” for apprentice training in the north-east and that its liquidation was a “sad event”.
Mr Ritchie said the Scottish Government was “guilty of a complete lack of understanding” of how their actions impact “apprenticeship training providers across Scotland”.
But the Scottish Government firmly rejected Mr Ritchie’s criticisms, saying they were “unfounded”.
ITCA opened in the north-east in 1989 and became one of the biggest engineering apprenticeship firms in Scotland.
But the centre was hit hard by the downturn and the subsequent drop in spending on training programmes, as well as an increase in business rates.
The organisation tried to lower its cost base, but its efforts ultimately fell short.
The liquidation put 10 staff members out of work and left scores of apprentices scrambling to find places at other centres.
A manager at another north-east training company said ITCA’s demise was symptomatic of oil companies’ focus on cutting costs during the downturn.
But Mr Ritchie said ITCA’s demise could not entirely be blamed on companies that have struggled through a difficult few years of low oil prices.
He said: “The Scottish Government us guilty of a complete lack of understanding of how their actions, or inactions, are affecting apprenticeship training providers across Scotland, this is potentially the first of several crippling blows for training provision as these organisations struggle to survive.
“We understand that our country’s workforce and skill base is ageing and we must continue to invest in youth to ensure a stable transferrable skill base of the future, yet we are living with an SNP led administration that continues to bury its head in the sand.”
He claimed that a large portion of the funds collected as part of an apprentice levy were not being distributed to training centres in Scotland.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “These claims are unfounded. The UK Government’s Apprenticeship Levy is a tax – imposed without consultation with the Scottish Government – by the UK Government on Scottish businesses.”
The spokeswoman added that the Scottish Government had previously offered to meet Mr Ritchie to discuss his concerns.
Score Group has its own apprenticeship scheme.
In September, Mr Ritchie said the company planned to recruit 80 apprentices globally within a year, having already taken on 25 engineering and six business administration trainees for its Peterhead operations in July.