Why apprenticeships are the best route to employment

14 March 2016 -


As National Apprenticeship Week 2016 gets underway, Scottish National Party MP Hannah Bardell looks at how apprenticeship schemes bring value to employers and the economy

Hannah Bardell MP

Modern Apprenticeships help employers develop their workforce by training new staff and upskilling existing employees. For individuals, a Modern Apprenticeship is a job that lets them earn a wage and gain a recognised qualification.

Figures released by the Skills Development Scotland agency confirm that more than 101,000 people in Scotland have started a Modern Apprenticeship in the last four years.

There has also been an increase in 16- to 24-year-olds, and those starting a Modern Apprenticeship at a higher level.

In 2014/2015 alone, more than 25,000 people started a Modern Apprenticeship in Scotland, combining a qualification with on-the-job experience.

This is a fantastic way to let people work, learn and earn, and it’s a testament to employers in Scotland that they have sustained their investment in Modern Apprenticeship opportunities through the economic downturn.

But Modern Apprenticeships are more than just bare statistics – each one of those people is a potential entrepreneur, engineer or employer of the future.

This is where apprenticeships come into their own – as a great way to enter the workplace and learn the job from the inside rather than in a classroom. Life is rarely predictable, and neither is the world of work.

When Harold Macmillan was asked to name the most difficult part of being prime minister, he replied “events, dear boy, events”.

Things crop up that education alone cannot prepare us for; circumstances change and employees often need to adapt rapidly.

Apprenticeships allow inexperienced new-starters to learn from those with experience what can go wrong, anticipate problems and make some errors while learning on the job.

The landscape has changed since the 1950s and 1960s when school leavers were faced with an abundance of jobs and often entered a job for life.

In the modern economy, school leavers and university graduates often have little choice of secure long-term employment. Where they do, roles are unlikely to be for life.

Successfully entering the world of work is no longer just about going through further education or university. UK business innovation and skills secretary Sajid Javid has announced that the UK government is to double spending on apprenticeships by 2020.

If we do not encourage our youngsters into apprenticeships, then we are likely to see more and more businesses developing outside the UK in search of other talent pools.

Take the issue of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). In 1984, the Engineering Council collaborated with the Equal Opportunities Commission to launch the Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) year.

Led by Baroness Beryl Platt, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission at the time, the initiative intended to highlight career opportunities for girls and women in science and engineering.

Thirty years on, there is still a great need to encourage women into STEM.

Scotland’s Developing the Young Workforce programme outlines a number of further actions to tackle inequality.

Apprenticeships not only offer our young people better job prospects – they also have a positive impact on businesses and industry, bringing value to employers and our economy.

Youth unemployment in Scotland has reached its lowest in seven years, but I would urge more businesses to consider how a Modern Apprenticeship could help them grow and prosper.

Find out more about the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeships at: www.managers.org.uk/degreeapprenticeships

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