Lauren Brown: Sourcing the skills – apprentices fill gap for employers

The first week in March saw the annual celebration of apprenticeships during Scottish Apprenticeship Week – an annual campaign highlighting the value apprenticeships and work-based learning bring to individuals, employers and the economy.

Lauren Brown, Project Manager, Developing The Workforce West Lothian

Co-ordinated by Skills Development Scotland – the national skills agency – Scottish Apprenticeship Week showcases the value that apprentices add to the businesses in which they work, as well as ­recognising the achievements of individual apprentices and all those who ­contribute to their success.

This year’s theme – Skills for the Future – recognises the importance of investing in the workforce.

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During the week, we were certainly struck by the commitment of so many local employers in not only using apprenticeships as a ­mechanism to deliver the skilled workers needed for the future, but also by their ­commitment to raising awareness of apprenticeship opportunities to key stakeholders, such as other employers not yet involved, to young people and their influencers.

Modern Apprenticeships allow individuals the opportunity to earn while they learn, gaining real ­business experience whilst working towards their qualification, enabling employers to fill skills gaps within their current workforce.

Apprentices are employed across Scotland in a wide range of jobs in sectors including engineering, ­construction, financial and business services, health and social care, ­digital technology, tourism and food and drink.

Last year there were more than 27,000 Modern Apprenticeship starts across a wide range of sectors.

This includes Graduate Apprenticeships, which provide the ­opportunity to achieve qualification up to masters degree level whilst in paid ­employment.

There has also been a growth in opportunities for school pupils to take up a Foundation Apprenticeship as a subject choice alongside their other school subjects.

During Apprenticeship Week, the employer-led Developing the Young Workforce Regional Groups ­delivered activity and events throughout Scotland to promote apprenticeships to employers, young people and parents.

All 21 regional groups worked with Skills Development Scotland to ­deliver the national Scotland’s ­Biggest Parents’ Evening campaign. The aim of this event was to help ­parents and carers understand why they should encourage more young people to choose an apprenticeship.

The event we delivered in West Lothian – hosted at Sky – provided parents and pupils with information on the wide range of apprenticeships on offer in the local area. Feedback from attendees confirmed how ­useful it was for parents to understand the significant developments in the apprenticeship family, with many commenting that they were not aware of Foundation or Graduate Apprenticeships.

One parent ­commented: “The ­biggest thing I learned from ­Scotland’s Biggest Parents’ Evening was the range of apprenticeships on offer. Apprenticeships offer an alternative career path to going straight into higher education and they are definitely suited to those who learn from doing practical, hands-on work.”

James Russell, director of career information, advice and guidance operations at Skills Development Scotland, said: “Parents play an important role in young people’s decision making and so the events taking place as part of Scotland’s Biggest Parents’ Evening are a great opportunity for this audience to find out about the opportunities and ­benefits of apprenticeships.

“Every year, apprenticeships enable thousands of individuals to develop skills for the future and invest in their careers.”

In addition to Scotland’s Biggest Parents’ Evening, our team also held an information breakfast for employers, which provided an opportunity for businesses to find out more about Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships.

Attendees had the opportunity to hear an employer’s perspective on the benefits of recruiting apprentices. This was certainly one of the ­highlights of the event, especially hearing from one young apprentice, who talked about the decision he had to make as to whether to choose ­university or the working world when he left school.

His decision to go straight into work has ultimately now led to him now completing a project management apprenticeship, where, by all accounts, he is absolutely thriving. He has also just bought his first house at 19 – something he says he would not otherwise have been in a ­position to do.

He was such a positive and articulate speaker and a true ambassador of just how much confidence, skills and knowledge an apprenticeship can equip you with.

We now hope to see the collective efforts of Skills Development Scotland, Developing the Young Workforce, employers and other partners leading to a boost in employers recruiting apprentices, and young people choosing an apprenticeship as a rewarding career path.

Lauren Brown, project manager, Developing The Workforce West Lothian.