With strong links to local firms providing career pathways for thousands of students over the years, South Lanarkshire College is certainly familiar with Scottish Apprenticeship Week’s theme of ‘Business Backing Talent’, writes Ann Wallace


A FORWARD-THINKING college with links to businesses across South Lanarkshire is urging more employers to back Scottish apprentices as part of a national campaign.

South Lanarkshire College is keen to highlight the value apprenticeships can bring, not only to the individual, but also to companies and the wider economy. 

The theme of this year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week (which runs until March 5) is Business Backing Talent. All week, staff and students at the college are sharing their stories, while its business partners will offer insight into the benefits to employers of taking on apprentices.

Training and Employment Advisor Elise Bonini explains: “There are many benefits to employers who decide to back talent by taking on an apprentice, including the chance to strengthen and upskill their existing workforce; the opportunity to increase productivity and the knock-on effect of helping to improve staff morale and service and product quality.


Training and Employment Advisor Elise Bonini


“We are incredibly lucky to have links with hundreds of employers, both through our Faculties and our Training and Employment Team, and Scottish Apprenticeship Week is a great platform for us to raise awareness of the wider benefits of the apprenticeship programme.”

After 12 months of lockdowns and restrictions caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, businesses across Scotland are facing unprecedented challenges.

“For employers, it can be a big step to take on an apprentice, but there is a great deal of support available, and we are working closely with business to make them aware of that support,” says Elise. “In these challenging times, apprentices can play a vital role in supporting businesses and the economy now and for the future.”

Among the initiatives available this year, businesses can benefit from the introduction of a new Apprentice Employer Grant, which provides up to £5000 to assist firms with recruiting apprentices.

“There is also additional funding, through the Adopt an Apprentice scheme, to support companies who take on an apprentice affected by redundancy, and Pathway Apprenticeships are available for school leavers not in a job or education to gain work-based learning and qualifications in sectors with skills needs,” says Elise.

Scottish Apprenticeships, which include Foundation, Modern and Graduate options, support the Young Person’s Guarantee, introduced by Scottish Government to ensure everyone aged between 16 and 24 has the opportunity of work, education or training.  

South Lanarkshire College, which is based in East Kilbride, delivers a broad portfolio of employment-focused further education and higher education to around 5000 students. 

It has 168 Foundation Apprenticeship students (a scheme available to those still in school as a senior phase course option, tying in with the Developing the Young Workforce programme) and more than 140 Modern Apprentice places (available to those aged 16 and over) working across a diverse range of subjects, including Plumbing, Travel Services, Painting and Decorating, Hairdressing, Accounting and Life Sciences.

“We are very proud of the fact that year on year we have managed to expand the range of the programme and the number of students we take on – even this year, when it was incredibly difficult for many people, our programme has grown,” says Elise.

“Like everyone else this year, we have had to quickly adapt, as both an employer and a training provider.

“South Lanarkshire College has made a considerable effort during this challenging time, to ensure apprentices have been able to achieve and complete their vocational qualifications. The team has worked so hard to achieve this, and they have done an exceptional job which is a real positive after such a difficult year for everyone.”

Modern Apprenticeship programmes are aimed at people in employment who wish to gain a national industry-recognised qualification while working – with apprentices aged under 24 being fully funded to study.

“They are designed by industry for industry, to help businesses attract and retain staff by offering a range of high quality, work-based training routes to skilled jobs,” Elise says.

“The support of industry is key to the success of this as employers’ feedback ensures the programmes take into account what they need, and in turn helps to provide them with a skilled workforce.

“The Modern Apprenticeship programme is open to people of all ages, not just young people.”

One of the over-arching themes of the national awareness week is that businesses are in the fantastic position of  ‘giving someone a chance’ by offering them an apprenticeship.

“Giving someone a chance is a great message,” says Elise. “It’s something I’m passionate about  – supporting young people to achieve their goals is really exciting. I’m in the fortunate position of having now been at the College long enough to see the full cycle of the programme.

“I have watched young people complete apprenticeships here, go on to develop their skills in business or set up their own businesses and come back to take on an apprentice themselves. That is really worthwhile and it’s wonderful to see.”
To follow apprenticeship journeys during the campaign, follow #ScotAppWeek on social media.

  • To find out more about how South Lanarkshire College can support your business, visit www.slc.ac.uk


Ambitions fuelled by brush with unfulfilling career

THE decision to take time out of a stressful job running petrol station franchises proved a life-changing move for Emma Ballantyne.

“I was unhappy, and didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew it was now or never,” she explains.


After leaving her job running a petrol station franchise, Emma Ballantyne enrolled in a painting and decorating Modern Apprenticeship at South Lanarkshire College


“I’m now just a year away from completing my Modern Apprenticeship in painting and decorating at South Lanarkshire College, and it’s been amazing.”

Emma is one of seven Modern Apprentices studying at South Lanarkshire College who are also employed there.

“If you’d told me this is where I’d be five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you,” smiles Emma, who lives in East Kilbride.

“I knew I wanted to do something creative, so after some really helpful advice from South Lanarkshire College, I applied for the City and Guilds Painting and Decorating course. 

“During the year-long course, my confidence in my painting and decorating skills was increasing, and I was really enjoying doing this practical type of work.”

She adds: “My family and friends had started to ask me to carry out small decorating jobs for them and I realised that if I wanted to develop my skills even further, getting an apprenticeship was the best way to do that.”

Now in her third year, Emma combines her studies with working as part of the College’s maintenance team.

“I’m getting so much more confident, and I am also developing more specialised skills, such as marbling, gilding and sign-writing, which is what I’m really interested in,” she says.

Emma is keen to encourage anyone considering a Modern Apprenticeship to take the opportunity and “just go for it.”

“It’s great having an employer to support you – you get real work experience, which also helps with your personal development,” she adds. 

Having previously run her own business, Emma is keen to do so again.

“That’s what I’m aiming for, but whatever I do, I know that having a trade under my belt is a very good idea, because you will always be able to use it,” she says.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a school leaver or a mature student, anyone can apply for an apprenticeship. 

“It’s a fantastic way to develop your skills, work towards a recognised qualification and earn a wage while you learn.”