New apprenticeship support grants are welcome as industry prepares for huge challenges in 2021, says Paul Campbell of Scottish Water and the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board Employer Engagement Group Chair



AS we look to 2021, the easing of restrictions and an imminent vaccine seem to herald the signs of hope and progress. Without denying that the Scottish Government still has a huge job on its hands as it sets out plans for economic recovery, I was encouraged by the First Minister’s announcement about the package of support available under the Young Person’s Guarantee. 

Part of the offer is a well-needed financial boost to employers through the new £15 million Apprenticeship Employer Grant. The grant will provide up to £5,000 for every person taken on or reskilled through an apprenticeship as it recognises the challenging circumstances employers face as a result of Coronavirus.

Financial support for businesses with the willingness to continue investment in their future talent pipeline will make the difference to many firms, especially SMEs, who may find it hard to meet the recruitment costs of apprentices at this time.  

I’m pleased to see that the grant and its detail has very much been shaped by employers – and I was delighted to have the opportunity, in my role as Chair of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board’s (SAAB) Employer Engagement Group, to lead the employer consultation on this. The Advisory Board plays a central role in providing ‘the voice of industry’ to all things apprenticeship-related in Scotland

With our members representing employers of all sectors and sizes, we are proud to take an active role in the strategic direction and stewardship of apprenticeships - our goal is to ensure they are future skills orientated and fit-for-purpose.  

SAAB have demonstrated the importance of collaboration. Our recommendations were that the Grant should specifically be about supporting not just the recruitment, but also the upskilling of existing employees into apprenticeships, and that the amount should be set at up to £5,000 per apprentice, to ensure a significant enough financial incentive for employers.

As we continue to work through more of the detail with skills agencies, training providers and unions, I am encouraged to see that Scottish Government has reflected the views of industry in its offer. This result has been another Advisory Board success of which I’m very proud and I would encourage companies affected by the pandemic to seek out this support, once applications for the grant open in early January. 

At Scottish Water we have been trying to take a leading role by collaborating with our partners and supply chain to ensure we have the skills and people to deliver our ongoing investment in our vital services and assets which are being built to last for many decades and which our customers depend upon, day-in day-out. 

There is a massive opportunity for larger employers to innovate and collaborate with their suppliers and partners, whether this is creating opportunities across the apprenticeship family, providing work experience or supporting schools and business partnerships.   

We’ve recently been running a series of seminars for our partners to promote the Young Person’s Guarantee and the wide range of opportunities and incentives that are available to employers. This isn’t just about being ethical and demonstrating leadership, it’s ultimately something that will benefit the wider sector in Scotland in the medium to longer-term by strengthening and growing our skills base. 

The road to recoup the economic damage caused by the pandemic will not be easy as we now see Scottish Government publish its updated Climate Change Plan, which commits Scotland to a green recovery from Covid-19. To complement this, a new Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan will be published by Skills Development Scotland to look at the skills needed to achieve a net-zero economy. It identifies a series of priority areas focused on employers, education and individuals that will help Scotland capitalise on job opportunities emerging from the net-zero transition.  

Here at Scottish Water, we have plans to ensure that Scotland’s daily requirement for more than one billion litres of water will be delivered entirely on renewable energy by 2040. This will involve operating all of our assets using renewable power, transitioning our entire fleet to zero emission vehicles and reducing the carbon intensity of our investment programme by 75 per cent through zero emission design principles and low carbon construction.   

All these changes will of course have implications for skills which is another reason why employer collaboration with government, supply chain and partners –  on skills and green jobs – is vital to overall economic recovery.


New training scheme offers firm pathway to employment

YOUNG people will have the chance to train and get qualifications in sectors with long-term prospects thanks to a new initiative launched in response to the pandemic.  

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Pathway Apprenticeships are for school-leavers up to 18-years-old who might be facing more limited options due to the economic impact from COVID-19. Around 1,200 opportunities will be available to young people in the first phase of the initiative.  

SDS Pathway Apprenticeships are being made available in areas including business skills, software and hardware IT, engineering, early years and healthcare.  


Teenager  Lee Gilchrist is enjoying his Pathway Apprenticeships position at Tannoch Nursery, where he receives training and a £100 weekly allowance

Pathway Apprenticeships have been developed and procured by SDS as an immediate, short-term response to the economic impact of the pandemic. They support the Scottish Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee which ensures access to education, training or work, including an apprenticeship for every young person in Scotland. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our Pathway Apprenticeships programme will provide work-based training which will start by helping 1,200 young people gain key skills in sectors like construction, business, IT, engineering and early years education. 

“SDS Pathway Apprenticeships are one of a range of measures introduced and being developed to support young people and employers.” 
Chair of SDS, Frank Mitchell said: “We know young people will be disproportionately affected by the economic impact of the pandemic.  

“Pathway Apprenticeships support the future employment prospects of Scotland’s young people and offset the rising levels of youth unemployment caused by the economic impact of Covid-19.” 

In addition, the construction industry has created a new college-delivered Pathway Apprenticeship incorporating the SDS Work Based Challenge unit. 
The underpinning learning is funded by the Scottish Funding Council with the  individual’s allowances supported by SDS and travel and subsistence supported by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). 

SDS Pathway Apprenticeships will offer training for unemployed or economically inactive young people to 26 weeks of training – with a £100 weekly allowance.  
There’s more support too for those working in apprenticeships, impacted by the pandemic. Apprentices facing redundancy can get help to achieve their qualifications, recognition for their learning and assistance to take the next step in their careers.

The Apprentice Transition Plan service offers more support for apprentices made redundant to help them get qualified; to provide a statement of their achievement recognising prior learning and an action plan for their next steps.

The service will be delivered by either the apprentice’s learning provider or a designated third-party provider.

Those benefiting from the support will receive one-to-one guidance to help them achieve their qualification and move on through further learning or employment.
Part of the service will include creation of a Record of Achievement that documents an individual’s skills, training and qualifications to date.

The Record of Achievement aims to support job applications and will outline an apprentice’s capabilities benchmarked against a national SCQF standard, to help employers make informed recruitment decisions. 

Through its Programme for Government and other recent announcements Scottish Government has committed to prioritising funding towards recruitment and retention of apprentices – and a pipeline of apprenticeship opportunities.

More information about SDS Pathway Apprenticeships is available at