Annette Bruton: Modern apprentices can deliver

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There’s been a groundswell of support for modern apprenticeships in recent years, with businesses and government convinced of the benefits they can bring to young people and our economy. The government is driving vocational training to meet the needs of employers and equip young people with the skills to go on to great careers. And, with the support of further education, Scotland is on track to meet Skills Development Scotland’s target of 30,000 modern apprenticeships by 2020.

In 2014-15, the country met SDS’s target of 25,000 modern apprenticeships, meaning more people getting to earn as they learn. This is helping to meet skills gaps in industry – such as issues with filling roles in our growing construction sector reported this month.

Plus, demand for skills in growing areas such as IT and digital, and the recent rise in unemployment in Scotland – which bucks the UK trend – indicate that apprenticeships are becoming increasingly important. In the long term, they can help reduce youth unemployment and deliver the real skills needed in the workplace.

So it’s crucial that we continue developing how we offer apprenticeships so as many people as possible can benefit. We’re currently trying to expand the reach of our apprentice schemes to new industries, new partners and a wider demographic, and we’re holding an event to help us do that.

At our Developing Your Workforce event, we’re hosting employers, government representatives and SDS to discuss work-based learning programmes – from foundation and modern apprenticeships to work placements – and identify how to increase our offering. We’re aiming to bring new businesses and industries on board and they’ll be hearing from the most powerful advocates of apprenticeships – the apprentices themselves.

We have our own apprenticeships in key sectors such as engineering, automotive, hospitality and tourism. We also work with employers and training providers to deliver apprenticeship training in additional areas including construction, care, business administration, accounting, and sports and leisure, with more than 1,000 apprentices each year from Edinburgh, the Lothians and further afield.

And this year we’re running our first foundation apprenticeship, in financial services to get S5 and S6 pupils on track towards apprenticeships while still at school. We intend to build upon this pilot scheme from next year. Every day at colleges we see how apprenticeships give young people the confidence and skills to become what our country needs. We’d welcome the opportunity to support more businesses to benefit from this success.

Annette Bruton is Principal of Edinburgh College