EMPLOYERS of all sizes were honoured at the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards for their work in championing work-based learning and supporting young people.
The 21st awards recognised the resilience and hard work of businesses who are using apprenticeships to attract diverse talent and achieve Net Zero goals.
Construction firm McTaggart Group in Dalry, North Ayrshire, was Large Employer of the Year after supporting more than 80 per cent of its apprentices to overcome barriers to work.
By offering Modern and Graduate Apprenticeship jobs as well as Foundation Apprenticeships for school pupils, the company provides career routes outside traditional academic pathways.
Ross Hammell, McTaggart Construction Community Benefits Manager, said: “Apprenticeships provide us with a sustainable pipeline of new talent.”
Edinburgh-based Multrees Investor Services won SME Employer of the Year after making apprenticeships central to its talent management programme, with 10 per cent of the growing financial services provider’s workforce apprentices.
Airdrie’s Bell Group won Large Employer of the Year – Promoting Diversity for its work to provide apprenticeship opportunities to people from disadvantaged and under-represented groups including Ukrainian refugees.
The Scottish Crannog Centre in Kenmore, Perthshire, won SME Employer of the Year - Promoting Diversity for using Modern Apprenticeships to tap into a diverse talent pool, ensuring opportunities for young people who face barriers to work.
And Muir of Ord renewable technologies firm RI Cruden won Supporting Net Zero Employer of the Year for its work to equip local talent with skills to turn the Highlands into Scotland’s green energy hub.
Chair of Skills Development Scotland Frank Mitchell said: “Apprenticeships are more critical than ever due to fast-paced changes in the workplace, and apprentices can be employed in real jobs making sure the skills gained are current through work-based learning.
“The quality of nominations was very high and I’d like to thank all the employers, learning providers and sponsors for their support and congratulate all of this year’s apprentice finalists and winners.”
Foundation, Modern and Graduate apprentices were also recognised at the event sponsored by Anderson Strathern, Arnold Clark, Shell, SQA, Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Training Federation, College Development Network, Scotland’s Apprentice Network and the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland.
APPRENTICE OF THE YEAR
SHETLAND farmer Julie-Ann Murray was crowned Scotland’s Apprentice of the Year after she used a Modern Apprenticeship to achieve her dream career on the island.
Julie-Ann Murray is Scotland’s Apprentice of the Year
Judges awarded her the top prize after she chose an Agricultural Modern Apprenticeship job to work with animals despite a lack of opportunities and the expense of going to college on the mainland.
The ex-Brae High School pupil is trusted to run the farm on North Roe, allowing her employer to take her first holiday in five years. Julie-Ann, who also won the Modern Apprentice SCQF Level 5 category, was announced overall winner by Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Youth Employment and Training.
He said: “Julie-Ann’s apprenticeship has made a huge difference to her and her career, as well as bringing benefits to her employer - all while developing and retaining key skills in the community.”
In the individual categories, Aggreko engineer Harley Higgins, 18, was named Foundation Apprentice of the Year while Plexus engineer Fatima Asif, 20, who studies at Heriot-Watt University, won Graduate Apprentice of the Year.
EGG Lighting IT worker Billy Wotherspoon, 19, won Modern Apprentice SCQF Level 6+, Forth Ports Engineering Modern Apprentice Hope Ralston, 22, was Supporting Net Zero Apprentice of the Year, childcare worker Declan Hoskins, 22, won Apprentice Ambassador of the Year, and Persimmon’s Will Smith was awarded Apprentice Instructor of the Year.
To find out more information on the winners and watch the awards show on YouTube visit apprenticeships.scot
STRATEGY FOR THE DIGITAL ERA
A NEW report published by Skills Development Scotland highlights the importance of digital skills to improve productivity and growth in Scotland.
The Digital Economy Skills Action Plan (DESAP) shows that digital skills are no longer the preserve of just the technology sector, and that digital talent is now essential for all of the country’s key industries.
The plan also states how important work-based learning is for training new workers, and upskilling and reskilling existing employees, to help build the nation’s digital capability.
Phil Ford, Head of Digital Economy and Financial Services, said: “DESAP builds on strong partnership work across Scottish Government and public agencies. It also reinforces the need for a step change in the supply of digitally skilled employees and employers to meet the needs of the Scottish economy.
“Work-based learning, which includes everything from apprenticeships and degree micro-credentials through to mentoring schemes and tech boot camps, offers the most cost-efficient way to supply those essential skills that are now very much in demand.”
Key recommendations in the plan include establishing a new equality, diversity and inclusion advisory group to provide expert advice to break down barriers and improve access to training and jobs, along with the creation of a new toolkit which will allow employers to assess digital skills in the workplace.
The plan recommends increasing the number of further education students that get access to technology-led work placements, and also increasing the number of tech experts that visit schools.
Continuing the theme that digital skills are no longer the preserve of just the technology sector, the plan includes the introduction of digital skills such as data management and cyber security into non-technology education and apprenticeships such as agriculture, construction, hospitality, and early learning and childcare.
Read the Digital Economy Skills Action Plan at sds.co.uk/media/50035/digital-economy-skills-action-plan.pdf