By Ronnie Charters
Apprenticeships could be vital in ensuring young people are not left behind by the coronavirus pandemic, according to industry leaders.
Amid a lack of opportunities and growing unemployment, there are fears the younger generation could be among the worst affected.
But industry bosses believe apprenticeships are a key way of getting people back to work.
It comes after the Scottish Government was advised to guarantee jobs for at least two years for 16 to 25-year-olds.
Graeme Hendry from Skills Development Scotland said: “We have been through economic hardships before and we know that apprentices are part of the solution and they offer a longer-term sustainable recovery.
“So we are really keen to ensure we have those solutions in place from early doors to help apprentices and their employers.”
An expert panel led by former Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins published a report on Monday detailing 25 recommendations to assist the country’s recovery.
Among them is a Scottish jobs guarantee scheme for young people that would provide two years of secure employment at a minimum, paying at least the living wage.
Ailish Lavelle has been an apprentice at Scottish Water for the last three years and says the opportunity has changed her life.
She said: “From my point of view, working with Scottish Water for the last three-and-a-half years has been the best decision I could ever have made.
“They always support me; I can earn a wage, go to college, earn a qualification and work at the same time.
“It’s a great opportunity for anyone who is looking to get into apprenticeships.
“I started out in the hospitality sector, so this has been a total career change but definitely one of the best changes I have made.
“I’ve learned a lot of skills. Scottish Water, as a company, has been very supportive and have helped me grow so much during my time here.”
Paul Campbell from Scottish Water says the firm employs around 160 apprentices across the business and has committed to an extra 40 in the coming months despite the current economic hardship.
“It’s an absolute core part of their strategy and it will be going forward, so we are very committed to the apprenticeship scheme,” he said.
“We know the benefit it brings and I really don’t see that changing to be honest, I really do see a large commitment in the business for apprenticeships and I expect that to continue.
“We are constantly planning five, ten years into the future so everything we are doing now is preparing for the future.
“In terms of the pandemic, we have had to move to a more online recruitment drive for apprentices; that includes much more video interviewing and online assessments, the emphasis is still there to bring them on board.”
Last year’s Scottish Apprentice of the Year Jordan Fairlamb is currently getting put through his paces at DawnFresh Seafoods.
They employ more than 300 apprentices across their business and are an approved Modern Apprenticeship Centre, which allows the company to develop and deliver apprenticeships in-house
Mr Fairlamb said: “I think apprenticeships are a great opportunity and the government should step in and do all they can to ensure people can go into apprentice roles.
“I’m a supply chain apprentice and I’m very grateful to be working through the pandemic and I’m still continuing with my studies.”