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EDUCATION & SKILLS


QA celebrates a decade of delivering apprenticeships to the tech sector


Solving the digital skills gap


BY JONATHAN WARNER DIRECTOR, QA LTD


This year marks 10 years of QA apprenticeships. In the last decade, we have matched more than 8,000 young people with forward-thinking Scottish employers, today we have apprentices on programmes with over 500 organisations in Scot- land. Tese are milestones that the team and I are very proud of. Sadly, for many young people


in Scotland, this year is providing less reason to celebrate. While the latest Royal Bank of Scotland Purchasing Manager’s Index reported the strongest-ever level of business confidence for the year ahead, it also confirmed that the Scottish economy remains in downturn. Tis has consequences for young people in Scotland; at the end of the third quarter, the number of Modern Apprentice- ship starts for 2020/21 was about 50 per cent lower than 2019/20. Rightly the government has put


a number of initiatives in place to reverse this. Te First Minister re- cently announced an investment of £15m to help more employers take on apprentices. Specifically, grants will provide


£5,000 for employers taking on or upskilling an apprentice aged 16 to 24, or individuals aged up


to 29 years who are disabled, care leavers or minority ethnic. Initiatives such as “adopt an


apprentice” and the apprentice transition plan will also help to ensure that apprentices that were mid-programme when the pan- demic hit do not lose their footing in the job market. Tese interventions place ap-


prenticeships firmly at the centre of the talent strategy required to rebuild our economy, our services and our businesses in Scotland. Tey also mean that there has never been a better time for employers to reap the rewards of apprenticeships.


FAR-REACHING BENEFITS Skills Development Scotland’s latest apprentice and employer survey shows the value that ap- prenticeships can provide to both employers and young people. It shows 91 per cent of young people completing an apprentice- ship are still in employment after six months. But the opportunity to grow new talent is also an important consideration. QA’s client, Kick ICT Group, has


been using apprentices for several years. “We could get someone who is experienced but we like the idea of growing our own talent at Kick ICT,” says head of support Donald MacKay.


38 | FUTURESCOT | SPRING 2021


Apprenticeships offer a strategic, long-term solution for companies


“We work closely with our


apprentices to immerse them in our company culture and our ways of working. Equally, our appren- tices have a tendency to think more freely, giving us the opportu- nity to develop new ideas for our business and our customers.” At a time when innovation is in


high demand to drive growth, the opportunity to introduce different ways of thinking should not be underestimated. Robert Johnston, managing


director at Emax-Systems, says: “Apprentices bring an X-factor to the office environment. Tey have grown up with the internet, software and apps which gives them a whole different perception of how tech should work which is refreshing. Tey can be quite bold too. Tey have no problem shar- ing their ideas with us.”


Some employers proactively


embrace this confidence, intro- ducing upwards mentoring which pairs apprentices with more experienced managers for a day. John Whitehill, IT operations


and security director, explains how this works at Aggreko, “Tere’s a fearlessness and an informality that apprentices bring into the organisation that keeps things real. We encourage appren- tices to sit alongside colleagues and to question ways of using our IT systems. Obviously, colleagues have to be comfortable with feedback from 16 to 18-year-olds for this to work but the process simulates different thinking at the end of the day which is brilliant.” Apprenticeships are particu-


larly critical in the tech sector. Every single IT organisation is battling with a skills strategy at


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