Skills Development Scotland shows how apprentices can be a boon for your business

Employers can get a range of support to take on new recruits or upskill existing employees through apprenticeships from public body Skills Development Scotland (SDS).
Picture: Skills Development ScotlandPicture: Skills Development Scotland
Picture: Skills Development Scotland

More recently, additional support for employers has been put in place as part of the national skills agency’s response to Covid-19, underpinning the development of more apprenticeship opportunities.

Frank Mitchell, chair of SDS, says: “Scottish Government remains firmly committed to the long-term role of apprenticeships in economic renewal, in supporting growth areas of the economy and providing the best career prospects for young people.

“SDS will continue to work to ensure the right support is there for those who need it in the months to come.”

Surveys conducted by SDS in 2019 and 2020 of employers who have engaged apprentices affirm that the new recruits brought additional skills, and improved sustainability and productivity levels for their businesses.

Apprentice employers stated the top-three benefits of hiring them were: productivity (83 per cent), improved staff morale (79 per cent), and improved image in their sector (74 per cent).

The additional SDS support comes in the form of the Apprenticeship Employer Grant, backed by the Scottish Government following consultation with the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board (SAAB). Through the grant, employers who take on up to ten Modern or Graduate Apprentices can access as much as £5,000.

The maximum sum is available for employers taking on or upskilling a 16 to 24-year-old through a Modern or Graduate Apprenticeship. It is also offered for engaging recruits aged up to 29 years who have a disability, have had experience of the care system or are from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

All information and more details on grant conditions, as well as FAQs, guidance and a link to the application form, can be accessed online at the SDS-supported website

This online resource also lists a range of incentives businesses can tap into to support their existing apprentices, including Access to Work to aid those with disabilities, on the employer funding area of the website. Elsewhere on the site, employers can upload their apprenticeship vacancies for free.

In addition, SDS provides a relationship-managed service to help employers navigate the Scottish skills system. There is a team of experienced advisers on hand to help employers find the right apprenticeships to meet their business needs and to advise on funding support. SDS also has a free helpline on 0800 783 6000.

Charandeep Singh, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, says: “Apprenticeships are important – not just at this time, but especially at this time.

“They are key to any organisation’s legacy and talent pipeline and are at the heart of how businesses will rebuild and invest. They act as a way of ensuring that employers can get the skills they need, future-proofing their industry and workforce.”

With this in mind, SDS has also announced that payments for employers recruiting apprentices who have been made redundant during the pandemic are being increased from £2,000 to £5,000 through its Adopt an Apprentice scheme.

Fraser Rowberry, a director at digital network provider Openreach Scotland, says: “Bringing people through the apprenticeship route creates a loyalty reflected in retention figures, with around 80 per cent remaining with us after five years.

“Our young people are living through an unprecedented and unsettling time, and they need and deserve the stability and sense of worth that comes from fair employment.”

Apply for the Employer Grant

The Apprenticeship Employer Grant is available to help recruit new Modern or Graduate Apprentices within a business or to upskill existing employees.

If applications are for the latter, the grant specifically supports those who have changed job roles in the last four months.

Funding will be available for eligible employers where the apprenticeship start date was on or after 1 December 2020. Funding will be available for starts until 25 March, 2021 or until funding levels are exceeded – whichever comes first.

For more information about the support to take on an apprentice, visit .

Research reveals added value of apprentices

More than 100 different types of apprenticeships are out there, covering hundreds of job roles across Scotland

More than 40,000 people are employed as or training through apprenticeships in Scotland right now

100% of employers who took on Graduate Apprentices said they would take another on in the future, with

87% stating that doing so improved workforce sustainability

96% of businesses employing Modern Apprentices said that they would recommend them to other employers with

86% saying that they improved productivity

96% of employers involved in Foundation Apprenticeships said they were a good way to develop their young workforce and

74% stated that they brought in new knowledge and skills

Surveys conducted by SDS, 2019 and 2020

Case study: Importance of fresh minds to challenge us

JP Morgan believes investing in new talent is crucial in its drive to sustain its cutting-edge digital services.

Designed in partnership with industry and offered in key sectors that need highly skilled employees, Graduate Apprenticeships have given the financial services firm the ability to bring in enthusiastic recruits and develop their digital skills.

A Graduate Apprentice spends most of their time learning on the job, supported by a university or college to achieve a qualification up to Master’s level

JP Morgan employs 45 IT Software Development Graduate Apprentices in Scotland and works with Strathclyde University to provide its recruits with a structured higher education programme of learning.

Phillip Paige, executive director, says that JP Morgan has remained committed to investing in new talent throughout the pandemic, with the firm taking on four Graduate Apprentices in 2020.

He explains: “There is a constant need to keep feeding more young talent into the team. Technology is a fast-paced environment, so it’s critical to keep recruiting in this area.”

Indeed, the business plans to significantly increase its intake of Graduate Apprentices. Paige adds: “The benefits that young people bring to JP Morgan through apprenticeships and all forms of junior recruitment can’t be overstated. They are fuelling innovation and bringing in new ideas. It’s so important to have fresh minds to challenge us.

“In particular, Graduate Apprentices are coming to us as a blank canvas and joining an environment where they can ask questions.”

Case study: Good for young people and communities

Just before the Covid-19 outbreak, Alison Rose, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, pledged it would champion potential by helping people, communities and businesses to thrive.

While Covid-19 put much of life on hold, the bank’s commitment to offering a new generation a future through its apprenticeship programme did not.

“The Gogarburn site in Edinburgh is one of our key tech centres where many Modern and Graduate Apprentices work,” explains Mike White, apprenticeship manager with bank.

“The impact of Covid-19 meant that we adjusted our plans... to switch over to a fully online apprenticeship offering.

“It has created new challenges – how to recruit, assess, onboard and train apprentices, while we all work from home. It’s not so easy for smaller employers – but there is help out there via the Apprenticeship Employer Grant.”

White’s role as a member of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board helped him gather support from Skills Development Scotland and Developing the Young Workforce.

He says: “In addition, we worked closely with Leadership through Sport and Business, a charity we support, to create our three-year Social Mobility apprenticeship programme. This enables us to offer opportunities to young people, from less-advantaged backgrounds.”

Mike adds: “This programme combines the apprenticeship offer with giving back to the communities we serve – it helps deliver benefits to our business through fresh talent.”