The Apprentices praise Edinburgh Guarantee

From left, Euan Morrice,Christopher Arundel, council chief executive Sue Bruce, economy convener Frank Ross, Eirinne D'orofrio and Struan Robertson. Pic: Jane Barlow

From left, Euan Morrice,Christopher Arundel, council chief executive Sue Bruce, economy convener Frank Ross, Eirinne D'orofrio and Struan Robertson. Pic: Jane Barlow

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Youth unemployment may be high, but Gina Davidson finds the Edinburgh Guarantee is helping to find work for city school leavers and graduates.

THE statistics are not encouraging. Youth unemployment in Edinburgh is four times the city’s average, standing at 16 per cent instead of four – that’s 500 young, inexperienced, people every year hitting the dole queue. And with increased competition for jobs – any job – the future for them is pretty bleak.

Yet there are moves to change this situation, to find places in society for the city’s teenagers and, this week, one of the major programmes which aims to tackle the statistics saw 39 apprentices complete their time and “graduate”.

The Edinburgh Guarantee scheme, which is run by the city council in partnership with private businesses and the voluntary sector, aims to increase the number of job opportunities available to school leavers. Since 2011, more than 1000 apprenticeships and intern opportunities have been created.

In the council itself there are 79 apprentices in place working towards completing their Modern Apprenticeship certificates – that’s more than one in every 100 full-time employees – and another 50 will be recruited over the next year.

Sue Bruce, chief executive of the council, says: “We have 200 business partners and with other employers in Edinburgh we have created almost 1000 opportunities since the Edinburgh Guarantee began. Business recruited more than 300 young people through the programme last year.

“The apprentices add real value to the workforce and I know they have changed the way lots of businesses now recruit staff.”

But what do the apprentices themselves think of the scheme? Does it lead to real jobs and further opportunities? We spoke to four – two graduates and two still in training.

‘Every day is different’

CHRISTOPHER ARUNDEL, 17, Dalry: The former Boroughmuir High pupil admits he was looking at joining the dole queue until he heard about the Edinburgh Guarantee.

He says: “I wasn’t academic and I knew I wanted to do something people-centred as I’ve got good social skills …

I heard about the Edinburgh Guarantee from my guidance teacher, I applied online, went through the interview and got a job as a health and social care apprentice.”

Christopher, who has just completed his SVQ Level 2 in health and social care and has another year to go, works at the Parkview Care Home in Peffermill, looking after elderly patients.

“I help them with their everyday needs, get them up in the morning, help them to eat, getting them involved with activities,” he says.

“People ask why at my age I like working with older people, but my gran was in a care home and the people who worked there and looked after her really inspired me. Every day is different, there’s always a new challenge, that’s what I like about it.”

‘I’m being paid to do something that I love’

EUAN MORRICE, 20, Leith: “I’ve just completed my modern apprenticeship in sports development,” smiles Euan.

“I’ve done two years, though I really finish in August and then I’ll be starting college straight away.”

A former Leith Academy pupil with an A in Higher PE, Euan knew where his skills lay from a young age.

“I’ve always been sporty and PE was always my best subject at school,” he says.

“I started my apprenticeship when I was halfway through sixth year as I saw the job advertised and I knew it’s what I wanted to do anyway as I was always interested in sport. I wasn’t trying to leave school until I saw the job and it felt right for me.

“The college course I’m going on to do at Edinburgh College in sports coaching and development, I would have applied for straight from school, but now I’ll start it with loads of experience already.”

A football player with Leith Athletic under-21s, he adds: “I’ve been working within a sports development team, developing players and sports programmes within Edinburgh, so that involves a lot of events management and organisation of staff and facilities. Then there’s the hands-on coaching as well.

“It’s really been a brilliant opportunity to get involved in everything. And it’s brilliant to get paid for doing something that I love.”

‘I’ve bought a car because I’m being paid’

EIRINNE D’OROFRIO, 18, Colinton: “My mum works for the council as a care worker and she was changing her job so was on the website when she saw the apprentice scheme advertised,” says Eirinne, a former St Augustine’s pupil.

“I was starting exams and didn’t want to leave school to do nothing, but knew I didn’t want to stay on either.

“There was college or university and I think I might still go on to further education, but I wasn’t ready for it straight from school.”

Once Eirinne was accepted on to the scheme as a health and social care apprentice, she was sent to work at the South Gyle Respite Unit, where she dealt with people with learning difficulties.

“I’m there to help them get the most out of their respite time,” she says. “I help with meals, with personal care and medication, but also spend time doing activities. I knew nothing about learning disabilities before I started there, but now I really love it.”

The other amazing thing she says is earning her own money.

“My mum also thinks it’s great,” she laughs. “She thinks I’ve matured a lot. I can drive now and I’ve saved up and bought my own car because I’m being paid.”

‘I’ve realised my potential’

STRUAN ROBERTSON, 21, Portobello: On Monday, Struan was an apprentice – now he’s a time-served joiner with Edinburgh Building Services.

Clutching his framed certificate which declares he has graduated with an SVQ Level 3 in construction, carpentry and joinery, he admits that for him it’s just the start.

He says: “I really hope to go on and do further qualifications. I have asked EBS if they’ll let me go and do an HND in civil engineering.

“When I started I wasn’t looking too far ahead but in the last year or so I’ve really grown up and realised my potential and I now have the mindset to go a lot further. I feel like everything is opening up to me now.”

Former Portobello High pupil Struan added “It’s been a brilliant three years. You get paired with someone experienced who basically teaches you the job.”I would recommend doing the apprenticeship to anyone. It’s great feeling like you’re contributing to your city, being part of a team.”

OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVERYBODY

The Edinburgh Guarantee initiative came into being at the end of 2011 with the aim of getting school leavers into either training, education or a job.

Under the Guarantee, all school leavers have access to at least one of these strands. The city has gone from being the worst performing area in Scotland to being the best performing city region, with an average of 269 school leavers becoming unemployed, compared with 550 in 2011.

All vacancies and opportunities available through the Edinburgh Guarantee are published online, matching young people to employers and their vacancies. Young people have access to the website while still at school and upload their CVs. The success of the scheme led to the city council being named Public Sector Employer of the Year at Scotland’s Modern Apprenticeship Awards last year.

Sue Bruce – who found herself unemployed for three months after she graduated – said at the time of the launch: “We are looking for any opportunity that gives a positive destination for young people. A good proportion of youngsters are coming out of school with good qualifications, so they are not ending up without a positive destination because they haven’t done well, so we wanted to make a real concerted effort to help them.

“In a city with such diversity, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we could actually find an opportunity for everybody.”