By quickly responding and adapting to the needs of industry, Scotland's apprenticeship schemes  are supporting employers in their aim to educate, train and upskill their workforces to drive the country's post-Covid economic recovery. By Frank Mitchell, Chair of Skills Development Scotland


Two years of uncertainty and disruption have impacted every aspect of society, the economy and education.

The tragic events unfolding in Ukraine and the actions taken to isolate Russia will also add further uncertainty to post-pandemic recovery plans.What has remained certain throughout is that skills will be crucial to Scotland’s recovery and long-term prosperity. 

The right skills will enable Scotland to emerge from the pandemic to meet Scottish Government’s ambitions for a fairer, greener economy. 

When it comes to supporting sustainable skills through workforce development or providing opportunities for young people, we know that apprenticeships work. 

Apprenticeships work for employers to develop the critical skills they need now and in the future.

Apprenticeships work by providing a tried and tested way for people to work, learn and earn – no matter their background. 

And apprenticeships work to support productivity and economic renewal.

While businesses continue to feel the effects of economic lockdowns, labour shortages, increasing wage costs and supply issues, there are reasons to be optimistic.

Statistics show that apprenticeship uptake among employers is moving tentatively but steadily towards pre-pandemic levels. The third quarter of the year saw apprenticeship starts with employers at around 88 per cent of the same period in 2019.

Developed in partnership with employers, apprenticeships continue to adapt to respond to industry needs.

Employers see the benefits in apprenticeships with 83 per cent reporting improved productivity; 79 per cent citing improved staff morale and 73 per cent highlighting greater staff retention.

Working with employers, learning providers and partners across the Developing the Young Workforce network, we will continue to support the Young Person’s Guarantee to maximise the number of apprenticeship opportunities available.

The Guarantee – a response to the impact of the pandemic – ensures opportunities for every 16 to 24-year-old in Scotland.

The national mission to fulfil the Guarantee also supports the wider commitment to apprenticeships.

This includes building back to 30,000 Modern Apprenticeship starts each year, and to see how much further they can go.

At the same time Scottish Government is also committed to embedding work-based learning in the education system through Foundation Apprenticeships for pupils and enhancing opportunities to work, learn and earn to Master’s degree level with Graduate Apprenticeships. Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland have worked together to ensure both Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships were maintained, and learners were supported through the challenges of the past two years.

More than 15,000 senior phase pupils across Scotland have now completed Foundation Apprenticeships; getting qualifications backed by business, preparing them for a big future in industries with growing opportunities.

A survey of employers showed that 97 per cent would support Foundation Apprenticeships again in the future and 96 per cent said they are a good way to develop the future workforce.

The drive to embed both Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships in the education system will ensure people and businesses in Scotland continue to benefit from world-class work-based learning for decades to come.

Independent research body the Edge Foundation recently published findings which showed employers want to see more work-based learning opportunities, and particularly Graduate Apprenticeships, playing a key role in supporting their post-pandemic recovery. 

A survey of Graduate Apprentice employers showed that 100 per cent see Graduate Apprentices as part of their long-term strategy, with 87 per cent saying they improved workforce stability and 72 per saying they filled critical skills gaps. 

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, working with employers and university partners, Scotland is on course to see the highest ever number of Graduate Apprentices this year, providing critical skills in areas of economic growth and opportunity.

The research was commissioned by the Scottish Apprenticeships Advisory Board, which continues to provide a strong voice for work-based learning in Scotland. Made up of leading employers and organisations, Board members have a shared interest in the success of apprenticeships and a collective commitment to supporting young people.

As Scotland moves to a transition through a new long-term economic strategy, the voice of employers shaping the development of apprenticeships will be more crucial than ever.

This combination of commitment from employers and the backing of Scottish Government will ensure apprenticeships work for everyone, making a significant contributor to Scotland’s recovery and productivity growth.

Find out about the support available and how apprenticeships can work for you or your business at 


Employees shine in supportive environments

Moray firm AES Solar say the company’s future will always include apprenticeships, with almost one-fifth of its workforce made up of apprentices.  

The Forres-based solar panel experts first became an apprentice employer in 2015 to provide more structured training and development opportunities. 

It has since seen an improved retention rate among staff, whilst improving gender balance within the company.  

AES Solar’s Hannah Jakobsen said: “Apprentices are always seen as a win-win investment. When looking ahead to our business growth and recruitment plans it seems unlikely that there will be a route where apprenticeships do not feature – quite simply it’s impossible to imagine a future without them.”

Lullaby Lane Nurseries sees apprenticeships as the perfect way to nurture a workforce who embrace working and learning. 


The nurseries, based in Milngavie and Bearsden, on the outskirts of Glasgow, became an apprentice employer since 2013 and has since employed 40 Modern Apprentices, 35 per cent of its current workforce.  

Primarily registered for the Social Services Children and Young People apprenticeship, some 13 apprentices have progressed into promoted roles, including the current nursery manager, two team leaders and one trainer. The nursery also supports

Foundation Apprenticeships for school pupils, offering 30 placements to date. 

Director of Lullaby Lane Nurseries Pauline Scott said: “The Modern Apprenticeship model works so well for us, as people are benefitting from that practical life experience, and you just cannot simulate that. 

“An apprenticeship is the perfect balance of off the job training and on the job learning.” 

Glasgow-based firm Pointer Ltd has invested in additional support for apprentices to help diversify its business and secure skills for its future. 


Enabling access to an apprenticeship opportunity for people, regardless of barriers to learning, has been a focus for fire and security specialists Pointer Ltd, which maintained its commitment during the pandemic – recruiting an additional 10 apprentices, with plans to recruit four more in 2022.  

The small firm began training apprentices in 1975 and have, to date, trained more than 160 apprentices, with the support of Pointer’s own purpose-built SQA approved training centre. 

Currently there are 13 Modern Apprentices and one Graduate Apprentice employed at the company, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year.

David said: “Our 50th year gives us the opportunity to reflect on a longstanding track record of delivering apprenticeship opportunities and how we can continue to build on the apprenticeships that are available and turn them in to successful careers which are fit for the future.  

“Probably the most measurable business benefit of apprenticeships is that most of our apprentices stay with us and progress through our career path in the company. Some have been with us over 30 years. 

“Through our career path two thirds of managers in Pointer started off with our Modern Apprenticeship programme. We strongly believe in promoting from within the business.”

Find out more about apprenticeships at


  • This article was brought to you in association with Skills Development Scotland