Tony March: You’re hired! Taking on a Modern Apprentice can fire up a business

This year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week (4-8 March) provides the perfect ­opportunity to draw attention to and recognise the important role Modern Apprentices play in the businesses and other organisations in which they work.

Modern Apprentice mechanical engineer Owen Forrest

Organised by the national skills agency Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Scottish Apprenticeship Week celebrates the many benefits ­apprenticeships bring to businesses, individuals and the economy. It also highlights the commitment of ­businesses, like our own, which are investing in and delivering the skilled workers needed for the future.

This year’s theme is Skills for the Future, which will be marked by activities and events across the ­country.

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Modern Apprenticeships give ­people across Scotland the opportunity to combine learning with real business experience, all while ­earning a living. There are already more than 37,000 young people working, learning and earning as Modern Apprentices and many of these are following career paths that may not have been open to them ­previously.

Tony March, Head of Public Sector, Wave

It’s a real success story and the facts speak for themselves. Research indicates that 91 per cent of apprentices are still in employment six months after completing their Modern Apprenticeship; and 96 per cent of employers say former apprentices are better equipped to do their job.

Not only does the individual benefit through providing the experience and the skills that employers want to see, but so does the business or organisation employing them. The latter also sees support from SDS with training costs, depending on the age of the apprentice and the type and ­level of training. It is a genuine ‘win-win’ for both parties.

Recruiting a Modern Apprentice enables employers to fill gaps in their current workforce as apprentices begin to learn sector specific skills from day one, developing specialist knowledge that will positively affect the bottom line.

Industry research has also highlighted numerous other direct and indirect benefits of hiring apprentices. In addition to eager, motivated staff who are committed to ­on-the-job training and development, there is also a significant increase in ­employee retention as staff typically feel loyal to employers who have invested in their training. They are therefore more engaged and motivated to stay.

Evidence also points to the fact that a more motivated and satisfied workforce ensures the delivery of a more competitive and productive organisation. Research carried out for the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that, on average, each apprentice brings a gain in ­productivity of more than £10,000 a year for their employer, with figures for some sectors being even higher.

Research also indicates that more than eight out of 10 customers prefer to buy from companies who employ apprentices.

At national water retailer Wave, a joint venture between Anglian Water Business and NWG Business, our apprentices play a major part in our success. We aim to provide an ­environment where their ­commitment and our high standards offer unique career opportunities. We would take this opportunity to encourage more businesses to take on a Modern Apprentice.

We initially employed two Modern Apprentices at our Edinburgh office and both have gone from strength to strength. Owen, the first one we took on and a former youth professional footballer, is in his last year and is training as a mechanical engineer. He splits his time between office-based and on-site activity as well as completing his studies at Fife College.

Jamie, who had left school unsure of what to do next, joined us to train and worked in our customer support team. He successfully completed his apprenticeship six months earlier than expected and is now permanently employed by us, proving an excellent addition to our team. As highlighted already, the benefits can be immense, to both the individual and the organisation, leading to improved productivity, morale, staff retention, quality of service, and assistance in meeting specific industry needs. Plus, businesses get help with training, funding and recruitment, and apprentices often help to upskill existing staff. There really is no better time to recognise the ­valuable job all of Scotland’s Modern Apprentices do and the vital role they play in so many businesses. Show your support for Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2019 by pledging to recruit a Modern Apprentice during the next year.

Tony March, head of public sector, Wave.