Scottish companies with a shortage in specialist skill sets are now being assisted with new Modern Apprenticeships

BUSINESSES of all sizes across Scotland have spent much of 2020 adapting to the demands of a rapidly shifting economy. For many employers, that has required a focus on the skills of their workforce, ensuring they are well placed to face up to challenges and grasp new opportunities.

Scottish apprenticeships can help employers address their own skills needs, whether that’s recruiting fresh talent or improving the skills of their existing workforce. Kelso-based Scotmas is one such business investing in skills so it can respond to market changes.

The disinfection specialist has taken on 10 new Modern Apprentices to support the growth of its business.

Earlier this summer, the firm received a grant from South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) through the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund (PERF), allowing it to retool and adapt its business to supply the growing demands for high-level disinfectants. 

The 10 new jobs resulting from the investment were all filled by local people recently made redundant, with Scotmas now working with Forth Valley College to place its new starts on a two-year Modern Apprenticeship in Scientific, Technical and Formulation Technology.

The qualification – developed last year with support from Skills Development Scotland (SDS) in partnership with industry – allows new employees to develop specialist skills and knowledge, while gaining vital in-work experience.  

The apprentices will benefit from using new remote learning tools and a bespoke training suite with full videoconferencing and Teams Room capabilities, thanks to recent investments made by the company.

Alistair Cameron, CEO at Scotmas, said: “Thanks to the latest technology, we have been able to partner with Forth Valley College to deliver world-class, SQA-accredited training to our staff entirely on site. 


“The commitment shown by our workforce – especially in the last six months to meet the demands from customers such as the NHS and social care providers – has been first class. At Scotmas we have a responsibility to ensure that they have access to opportunities to upskill and develop their career. The support from South of Scotland Enterprise and partners has been key in helping us adapt and retool our business, and create these new jobs at a crucial time for the south of Scotland economy.”

The firm has a proud track record of investing in the skills of its workforce, with team members such as Graduate Apprentice Lukasz Wojcik carrying out vital roles during the pandemic.

The 36-year-old field service technician has been maintaining water distribution systems at health facilities around the country, including Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. He said: “My Graduate Apprenticeship has been a fantastic way for me to develop and learn new skills while remaining in paid employment.  

“It’s been a hugely rewarding experience professionally and an opportunity for me to help NHS staff and patients.”

According to Ronnie Palin, life and chemical sciences sector manager at SDS, investment in the workforce is key for business and the wider economy as it recovers from Covid-19.

He said: “Access to a highly skilled workforce is critical for Scotland’s life and chemical sciences businesses to remain competitive and productive. 

“This new apprenticeship is already helping individuals and firms like Scotmas and demonstrates how SDS, working alongside industry, learning providers and agency partners, can support the sector to attract and retain the talent it needs.”

Professor Russel Griggs OBE, chair of SOSE, said: “This is a great example of how we are working together as Team South of Scotland with Skills Development Scotland and other key partners to help open up opportunities like this at a time where our region and communities need it the most.

“We went live as the new enterprise agency for the south of Scotland on April 1 and since then, our activity has included bringing over £12 million of Scottish Government funding to almost 300 businesses across our region.”


Lukasz Wojcik has been taken on as an apprentice at disinfection specialist Scotmas


The new roles at Scotmas will cover a range of specialisms from formulation technicians to quality assurance and equipment manufacturing technicians.Caroline Hogg, client manager in Forth Valley College’s department of business development, said: “We are looking forward to working closely with Scotmas to train their 10 new modern apprentices through our online delivery method, which has been honed and enhanced during the recent lockdown period.

“Forth Valley College prides itself on being a sector leader in online scientific and technical training provision such as this and we are excited to get started.”
Employers in other sectors of Scotland’s economy are also making use of apprenticeships to enhance their skills and react to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Laurencekirk brewery Six Degrees North raised a glass to two of its employees who became the first in Scotland to complete a Modern Apprenticeship in brewing skills.

Stuart Byers and Matthew Bennett, both 35, are now uniquely SVQ-qualified in one of the world’s oldest industries. Byers said: “It’s been a tough course but really rewarding and we’re chuffed to get our qualification. I would never have studied full-time at university so to be able to gain a qualification while working and earning is a fantastic option. It will prove popular with other men and women in the trade.”

Bennett added: “I felt I knew how to brew, having learned on the job, but to study and gain a qualification to say that I do officially feels great. This apprenticeship allows you to study in your own time and doesn’t detract from your day-to-day learning experience on the job.”

  • This article was brought to you as part of The Herald's Future of Education campaign with our partner Skills Development Scotland