Heriot-Watt University unveils 'significant' role in bid to close Scotland's skills gap

Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University has unveiled a “significant strategic new role” as it looks to strengthen business and industry ties and reduce the skills gap in key growth sectors of the economy.

By Scott Reid
Friday, 4th March 2022, 7:13 am

Announced ahead of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, the head of talent partnerships role will support the capital institution’s expanding ecosystem of business-to-business offerings for industry, including its graduate apprenticeship programme.

The programme uses strategic business partnerships to equip students with industry-focused education through work-based learning opportunities. Heriot-Watt currently works with employers across Scotland to develop skills and workforce talent in key STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sectors, including construction, engineering and computing science.

Jen Henderson has been appointed to the new position. Having previously worked as programme manager for Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Forth Valley, she is said to bring a wealth of experience in delivering successful collaborations across public, private and third sector organisations in education, business and communities.

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Announced ahead of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, the head of talent partnerships role will support Heriot-Watt University's expanding ecosystem of business-to-business offerings for industry, including its graduate apprenticeship programme.

Henderson will be responsible for establishing and coordinating “sustainable partnerships” with industry that build upon the success of the graduate apprenticeship programme.

Chief entrepreneurial executive David Richardson said: “Heriot-Watt University is well-known for pioneering education that drives industry through innovation-centric partnerships and collaboration

“ Our graduate apprenticeship programme is helping to address critical skills gaps in STEM growth sectors whilst improving workplace diversity and inclusion. It also provides businesses with a cost-effective way to develop the skills of existing employees, attract new talent and contribute positively to Scotland’s economy post-pandemic.

“Jen brings a high level of expertise to her role with more than 20 years of strategic leadership and management experience. She is well known for delivering collaborative partnership work at scale that enhances services, improves community outcomes and grows revenues.

“Her clear vision on the importance of academia and industry collaboration will undoubtedly complement and strengthen the values of our programme,” he added.

Henderson said: “Apprenticeships are a key way to develop and retain skills and talent for business and play an important role in Scotland’s economy.

“The graduate apprenticeship programme at Heriot-Watt University has a rich heritage of working with industry partners to produce degree-qualified employees who are equipped with the skills needed to shape growing and future industries. Our programmes cover a range of disciplines that can help employers to upskill, reskill and recruit by giving employees access to learning opportunities that deliver on-the-job practical experience combined with academic study at any stage in their career.”

She added: “Ahead of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, I’m committed to the continued improvement of opportunities for our current and future learners and the development of our growing network of quality employer partners.

“I look forward to building upon the successes achieved by the programme to date and creating further skills opportunities for industry that deliver future prosperity for our students.”

On International Women’s Day - March 8 - Heriot-Watt, working with a range of partners, will launch a survey to all partner employers to investigate workplace diversity, visibility and inclusion as part of its STEM Workforce Diversity initiative that aims to “promote inclusion, break barriers and advance access to learning for all”.

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