Previous winner of SDS Scottish Apprenticeship Awards 2019 advises firms to support youngsters as nominations open 

THE growth of apprenticeships is playing a key role in developing a new generation of talent in Scotland’s STEM industries.

Now, employers in those industries are being encouraged to recognise and celebrate that talent by making nominations for the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards.

Currently in their 18th year, the awards have earned a high profile owing to the growing recognition across industry of the value of apprenticeships.

The scale of the event has also grown to reflect the growth and diversity of Scottish Apprenticeships.

In recent years, new categories have supported the introduction of Foundation Apprenticeships for senior school pupils and Graduate Apprenticeships for those who want to gain qualifications up to Master’s degree level.

The inclusion of an Instructor of the Year category in 2018 also gave recognition to those who support, guide and mentor apprentices.

Nominations for this year’s awards are now open and give employers of all sizes the opportunity to showcase their investment in apprenticeships as well as their homegrown talent.

Organised by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), the national skills agency, the awards are an opportunity for employers to celebrate success stories and to help demonstrate the reach and diversity of apprenticeships.

SDS Director of National Training Programmes, Katie Hutton said: “More and more employers and individuals are benefiting from apprenticeships every year. The awards showcase the skills of apprentices, the commitment of employers and the dedication of training providers across sectors and across Scotland.”

Employers nominated and profiled from across STEM sectors have included global financial services firm JP Morgan Chase, automotive firm Arnold Clark, aeronautics engineers GE Caledonian and Peak Scientific Instruments.

Last year’s SME Apprentice Employer of the Year, Cortex Worldwide, invests in apprenticeships as it believes the skills required to survive in today’s workplace are dynamic, and not just about academic 

The Edinburgh-based digital technology company invests time and resources in apprenticeships to help further the careers of the next generation of people wanting to work in the sector. 

The firm has 35 employees in Scotland and currently has six 
Graduate Apprentices who spend one day per week at university working towards their chosen degree and the rest of the week delivering client work. Four apprentices progressed onto the Graduate Apprenticeships after completing their Modern Apprenticeship with the firm.

Cortex is set to expand its use of apprenticeships, with the addition of two more Modern Apprentices this autumn. 

The Cortex Worldwide Apprenticeship Programme gives individuals the opportunity to progress their careers in digital technology outside of the “traditional” route. 

By investing in future talent, its programme helps address the short, medium and long-term needs of Scotland’s digital technology industry by ensuring a skilled and sustainable workforce.
Peter Proud, CEO of Cortex, says: “In the world we live in today, the only constant is change. 

“Organisations which take time to invest in and understand the diverse needs and emerging talents of their employees are the ones most likely to succeed and prosper in this ultra-fast digital age. At Cortex, our apprentices are encouraged to achieve their ambitions whatever these are. 

“Our apprentices are given exposure to the latest changes in their chosen field, encouraged to attend conferences and courses, and given the opportunity to explore all business functions.”

Apprentices at Cortex meet regularly with their manager to discuss their learning pathway and progress. Its apprentices are given exposure to the whole range of business functions, including development, project management, quality assurance and pre-sales so they gain a broad understanding of all the workings of the company.

Cortex is a prime example of a business that can demonstrate the benefits of apprenticeships in a number of ways, including equality and diversity through inclusive recruitment practice and the opportunity to progress and upskill existing staff from Modern Apprenticeships to Graduate Apprenticeships.  

The Scottish Apprenticeship Awards enables apprentice employers to look across their own practices and shine a light on them and their apprentices. 

Katie Hutton adds: “The standard of previous nominations has always been extremely high, and I am certain this year’s award entries will be no less impressive. 

“The awards are also a valuable opportunity to showcase diversity as well as the breadth of opportunity across Scottish apprenticeships.”

The awards ceremony will take place in November. Entry deadline, noon, Wednesday, June 26. Make nominations at


Bursary option adds up for maths teacher

A Scottish Government fund is enabling individuals to undertake a life-changing career swap and get into STEM teaching.

The STEM Bursary Programme, which is administered by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), gives graduates in certain fields the chance to go back to education to study a Postgraduate Certificate in Education for a range of in-demand subjects.


A BIG PLUS: Robert Watt was able to switch to teacher training after two decades in engineering.

After being in work, the loss of income involved in returning to study can be a huge barrier for those considering undertaking teacher training. The £20,000 bursary, which focuses on STEM subjects, is opening classroom doors for hundreds of people keen to move into the education sector.

The bursary helped to turn a complicated career change equation into a simple sum for trainee maths teacher Robert Watt. Having been a manufacturing engineer since he graduated in 1999, Robert began looking for a change of direction after his son was born, and realised his strength was in teaching.

He said: “I wanted to make a change, as my post involved a lot of travel. I had always enjoyed coaching and developing younger colleagues. The STEM Bursary allowed me to take the leap, without having to compromise on my studies or family life.” He’s now studying at the University of the West of Scotland’s Ayr campus, and has already completed placements at St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk and Our Lady’s High School in Cumbernauld.

He said: “I’ve really enjoyed getting into the classroom. When you’re in a school, you immediately feel part of the community. Studying has been a great experience.” The University of the West of Scotland is one of nine across Scotland offering the bursary to its students. Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier, Highlands and Islands, Strathclyde and Queen Margaret are also participating.

The courses which qualify are maths, computing science, physics, chemistry, technical education and home economics and the bursary is provided in addition to student support provided by SAAS.

SDS Education Programme Lead Ken Edwards says the bursary has proven to be a real benefit for people like Robert. He said: “The support offered by the STEM Bursary gives career changers the security to make the move from existing employment into teaching. This will contribute to getting the right skills balance in the teaching workforce.” 

Robert has no hesitation in recommending the STEM Bursary. “I would say to anyone thinking about making the change to teaching, to absolutely go for it. 

Applications are now open. Find out more at