Youngsters across Scotland from the Western Isles to the Borders see the value of new apprenticeships

SCOTLAND has long enjoyed a global reputation in the digital sector, but finding people with the right skills to maintain that reputation has long been an issue.

Employers within the sector are increasingly finding that work based learning – from Foundation Apprenticeships to Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships – can help them grow their own talent.

The work of Foundation Apprentice Struan Robertson could potentially help save lives across Scotland.

The Mallaig High School pupil has helped design and develop the Lucky2BHere website, which provides defibrillator location information. His work has helped promote the Highland-based charity to a global audience.
The 18-year-old finds it rewarding to contribute to such a great cause.

He said: “It’s definitely a great feeling knowing your work is making a difference to peoples’ lives.

“On top of that, it’s a bonus that I’m getting experience in an area that I’ve always been interested in while I’m still at school.”

Foundation Apprenticeships give young people in S5 and S6 the opportunity to gain a nationally recognised qualification, at the same level as a Higher, alongside their other subjects.

This type of work-based learning also provides pupils with the opportunity to get real work experience – with Struan completing a placement through Google hangout calls with Isle of Skye digital company Sitekit, who are responsible for the Lucky2BHere website. As part of the second year of his Foundation Apprenticeship, Struan has been given the task of developing the online donations page. This experience has only increased his ambition to work in the digital world. 

He explained: “The Foundation Apprenticeship has opened my eyes to what’s out there and I now want to go to the University of Dundee to study computer science.”

Struan, who is from the Isle of Eigg, added: “It’s quite a big decision to move down there. 

“It will probably be harder for my Mum than it will for me. 

“My family have been really supportive and just want me to follow my dreams, this feels like the next logical step in that journey.”

Sitekit founder and CEO, Campbell Grant said: “Due to our remote location we have developed an innovative ‘online apprenticeship’ scheme and Struan took full advantage of this to join our team in Portree every week. “The excellent work Struan did on the Lucky2BHere website is a fabulous example of the exciting hands-on project work that Foundation Apprentices can engage in to learn real-life, practical skills that prepare students for the commercial world.”

Struan’s experience is far from unique. At just 17 years old, Hawick’s Harry Wilson has found himself in a full-time job and at University through a Graduate Apprenticeship.

Harry made the decision to leave school at the start of S6 to join IT company Agenor. He combines his role as an Apprentice Software Engineer alongside two days a week at Herriot Watt University, where he studies Software Development. 

He said: “I’ve always had an interest in computers, so when my parents read online about the Graduate Apprenticeship opportunity with Agenor I knew I couldn’t pass it up.

“It really is the best of both worlds; I’m getting four years work experience and studying for a degree – all whilst getting paid!”

Harry feels the Graduate Apprenticeship has been the perfect foundation for his career, having been uncertain what route to go down after S5.
He explained: “I’d got my five Highers and didn’t just want to stay on at school for the sake of it, I was keen to get into the real working world. A lot of my friends say I’m really lucky because it allows me to stay at home, do a job and get a degree in an area that I now know my future lies in,” he added.

Based in Newton St Boswell, Harry plans to put the theory he learns over the next four years into practice with Agenor.

He said: “As well as getting the experience of attending lectures with hundreds of people, I also get the opportunity to take projects back to my work and develop them.

“Agenor have been brilliant at allowing me time to focus on the University aspect. I really can’t describe how great a company they are - I hope I’m here for years to come.”

Harry’s manager Leagh Douglas, said: “He’s settled into the team brilliantly and the work he’s producing is of an excellent standard.”
She added: “We’re considering expanding our Graduate Apprenticeship programme. This would provide Harry with the potential to expand his skills even further and take on a mentoring role for a new graduate joining us.”

Securing tech skills for generations

Donald McLaughlin, Chair of the Digital Technology Skills Group, explains just how important apprenticeships are to the tech industry

This month saw Scottish Apprenticeship Week take place right across the country, highlighting the impact of work-based learning for companies, individuals and for the wider economy as a whole. 


TECHNICAL FOCUS: Digital Economy Minister, Kate Forbes, with Graduate Apprentice, Iza Ledzka.

This year’s week had a real digital focus. The importance of apprenticeships to the digital sector was reinforced when Kate Forbes, the Digital Economy Minister, visited SwarmOnline’s Edinburgh office to meet and chat with their Graduate Apprentice, Iza Ledzka.

Iza is studying for a BSc in Software Development for Business at Heriot Watt, and was quick to tell the Minister about the life changing impact of the apprenticeship programme. 

She explained that if she was unable to earn while she learned, one of the key advantages of being an apprentice, she would never have been able to change career or complete her studies.

It’s not only the apprentice that benefits from the scheme. Employers benefit as well, as verified by Swarm’s MD Simon Mone. 
He told the Minister that he would actively encourage other businesses to provide training opportunities like this as the company gets as much out of it as the apprentice.

Back across the M8, Scottish Apprenticeship Week also featured the story of the country’s first Foundation Apprentice specialising in cyber security. Steven Pearson joined Seric in Glasgow for eight weeks to learn more about the business of online protection, an area of the tech industry which is in rapid growth, but is facing a real dearth of qualified talent needed to feed that growth.
This is why Skills Development Scotland has helped create a new Graduate Apprenticeship in cyber security. This course has been developed in partnership with employers and covers areas like identifying and analysing security threats and attack techniques, discovering system vulnerabilities and undertaking a security risk assessment, and understanding associated laws and ethics. 

There is a wide range and variety of digital apprenticeship options with different frameworks designed to suit all organisations, whether public or private sector, or charities or even small businesses. Foundation Apprenticeships involve working with a secondary school pupil one day a week at no cost to the company, Modern Apprenticeships are open to new or existing employees, who can work towards industry recognised qualifications in a way which is tailored to the company, and Graduate Apprenticeships meet the firm’s needs if it is looking at higher level accreditation and are delivered in partnership with universities and colleges. 

Taking on an apprentice can only be good for a business, offering an opportunity to train the future lifeblood of the industry, while also benefitting from a bespoke and value for money resource able to help the business grow. 

More and more employers across Scotland are appreciating the benefits that work based learning can provide, and it is hoped that more businesses in the tech sector and beyond will follow their example.

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