Apprenticeships in Scotland, across all levels, will be vital to our economic recovery and future prosperity. The Scottish Government itself understands the importance of apprenticeships in responding to the effects of the pandemic to support individuals and the economy. It is actively encouraging and incentivising business to take on apprentices. For example, the Adopt an Apprentice Scheme provides £5,000 for an employer taking on an apprentice who has been made redundant.
As one of the founding providers of Graduate Apprenticeships (GAs) we really see the value and potential that GAs can offer. Since they were introduced in 2017, we’ve supported over 400 GA students and worked closely with over 170 employer partners to support their workforce development. During the pandemic the University has continued to invest in our GA capability by strengthening the team to make sure we can continue to grow the uptake of GAs across the country.
Despite the hugely difficult business conditions brought on by pandemic, it’s been highly encouraging to see continued demand from employers across a wide spectrum of sectors and different sizes of companies. In particular we’ve been delighted to onboard many new partners, such as Balfour Beatty. Jackie Archer, Head of HR at Balfour Beatty, summed up why Heriot-Watt was the ideal partner, “Heriot-Watt offers great learning experiences for their students which support both academic growth and personal growth. Importantly for employers, Heriot-Watt is up to speed with the needs of Industry and employers alike.”
The demand for GAs applies to all sectors of the economy. It’s really important to note that Graduate Apprenticeships are not just crucial for traditional sectors like construction and engineering. They will also be hugely influential in developing the digital skills that will be vital as we pivot toward a more technology-based economy in the future. Companies across all sectors will need to grow their capability in data analytics, software development (front end and back end) and IT management. All of these skills will be essential in the digital transformation that lies ahead.
Undoubtedly some of the demand has been due to companies looking to upskill existing employees. However, apprenticeships are particularly important for encouraging young people into the workforce. They are a key part of the Government’s Young Person Guarantee initiative.
In recent months we’ve been working closely with colleges such as Forth Valley and West Lothian promoting the wider apprenticeship family. These sessions have been aimed either at senior phase pupils, highlighting the potential of apprenticeship pathways leading to fulfilling careers, or aimed at employers, highlighting the benefits that apprentices, at all levels, can bring to a company. Feedback from a number of industry organisations and trade bodies clearly highlights that now it’s more important than ever for companies to invest in skills development. These sessions, including ones we’ve ran previously with Skills Development Scotland, are a great opportunity for us to endorse that message.
Overall, as restrictions continue to ease and the economy starts to recover, we are fully confident that more and more employers will reap the benefits that these fully funded Graduate Apprenticeships offer, both in terms of upskilling staff and attracting new young talented people into the workforce.
Dr Gill Murray, Deputy Principal Business & Enterprise, Heriot-Watt University