FORTH Ports has launched its first modern apprentice programme in Scotland, in partnership with trade unions RMT and Unite, to help ensure it has workers with the skills required to succeed employees who are retiring.

The Edinburgh-based company is also working on the apprenticeship scheme in partnership with industry body Port Skills and Safety, which is focused on promoting high standards of health and safety and highly-trained workforces in the sector.

Forth Ports is also working on the programme with the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

The company, which operates the ports of Grangemouth, Dundee, Leith, Rosyth, Methil, Burntisland, Kirkcaldy and Tilbury, said the programme had been approved by the Modern Apprenticeship Group.

Forth Ports, which employs nearly 500 people in Scotland, added that this was the first approval of a modern apprenticeship programme for a ports operator in the UK.

Charles Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports, said: "We are thrilled to launch our new modern apprenticeship programme in Scotland. Having a qualified and skilled workforce is vital to grow our business, and I am confident that our new programme will result in many successes for candidates."

Mr Hammond added: "We employ almost 500 people in our operations throughout Scotland, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we manage the succession planning for the future."

The programme will provide individuals, aged 18 or over, with training and mentoring from the business while they gain a professional qualification.

Apprenticeships will be available across the company in port operations, engineering, and central services. The programme will include on-the-job assessment and the development of core skills such as numeracy, communication, computing, and problem-solving.