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Survey shows continuing positive trend for Scottish apprenticeships

Masonry apprentices Callum Insch, left, and Jolyon Riley, working on a project at Braemar Castle for Keith firm Harper & Allan.
Masonry apprentices Callum Insch, left, and Jolyon Riley, working on a project at Braemar Castle for Keith firm Harper & Allan.

A Scotland-wide survey of employers shows nearly one in five have taken on apprentices, continuing a positive trend.

The figures show 19% of employers offered modern and graduate apprenticeships in 2021 – an increase on the 16% reported in 2019 and building on a rise in numbers since 2014. In the Scottish Government survey of 1,000 firms, two in five (40%) said they planned to continue or start offering apprenticeships in future – up from 26% in 2019.

And a majority of firms offering apprenticeships plan to continue doing so, with 92% confirming their intentions.

Young apprentices learning the ropes in the construction industry.

More than half (53%) of employers with more than 100 staff said they offered apprenticeships.

The Scottish Employer Perspectives Survey also found 79% of organisations offering modern or graduate apprenticeships had done so for more than three years. Among employers offering apprenticeships for a shorter period, 8% had started to do so within the past 12 months.

Securing new talent and skills

Overall, 58% of employers said they offered apprenticeships for reasons related to acquiring talented staff. Nearly four in 10 companies who had started to offer apprenticeships in the past three years said their key motivation was securing skilled workers.

In previous employer research by national skills body Skills Development Scotland (SDS), 83% of businesses said taking on apprentices had improved productivity, while 79% reported better staff morale.

There is a wide and growing range of apprenticeships available to young Scots.

SDS chairman Frank Mitchell said: “Employers repeatedly report how much they and the economy benefit from apprenticeships.

“Providing work-based learning opportunities helps attract talented and motivated young workers to secure the skills employers, individuals and the economy need for the future.

“Apprenticeships also provide opportunities for harder-to-reach individuals and those from marginalised communities in Scotland, enabling employers to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.”

Supporting youth employment

The latest survey findings also support the crucial role of apprenticeships in the government’s Young Person’s Guarantee, which aims to provide opportunities for every 16 to 24-year-old.

While 28% of firms said they offered apprenticeships to ensure a flow of new recruits into their company or sector, around a quarter said they did so to give young people the chance of an opportunity.

Apprenticeships were mostly offered to under-25s, with 90% falling into that age bracket. Around six in 10 companies (57%) offered apprenticeships to the over 25s.

Construction apprentices from North East Scotland College at the BioHub project in Aberdeen: l-r Mohamad Alhamdani, Jayden Dale and Owen Garner.

Holyrood has pledged its continued commitment to apprenticeships, aiming to bring annual starts back pre-pandemic levels and to then see how much further they can go.

Higher and further education, youth employment and training minister Jamie Hepburn said: “Apprenticeships will play a vital role in supporting Scotland’s economic recovery and renewal, giving employers access to a talent pipeline and the means to reskill their workforce. As part of our recovery we will build back up to 30,000 starts and assess demand to see how much further we can go.

“We are determined to ensure young people have opportunities to build their confidence, gain industry insight and develop valuable skills the economy needs both now and in the future.”

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