Article written by Dr Graham Paterson
Executive Director, City Building
For too long there has been a view that apprenticeships are a second-class career choice. Only this week a young woman speaking at a Conservative Party conference fringe event described how she had been “laughed at” when she asked a school career advisor about apprenticeships.
Other apprentices speaking at the session described feeling inferior to their peers who went to university, while it was suggested that apprentices were “swimming against the tide” by choosing apprenticeships.
But change is in the air.
According to recent research conducted by YouGov for the Bank of Scotland the number of respondents who thought apprenticeships offered the best career prospects rose from 29% to 32%, just a point behind the 33% who thought university was the best career path.
And more than half of the firms who took part in a recent survey by the Institute of Student Employers now appoint apprentices, with non-graduate recruitment in the 2018 season 50% higher than in 2017 – a much faster rate of expansion than the 7% growth reported in graduate hiring.
As executive director of City Building, the biggest employer of apprentices in Scotland, I’d urge everyone from young jobseekers to parents and other employers to recognise the benefits of workplace learning and provide the support that our apprentices need to hold their heads up high.
At City Building, apprentices account for 13% of our workforce of over 2.200 employees.
We offer Modern Apprenticeships, craft apprenticeships and we also employ several adult apprentices. Some of our apprentices go onto gain degrees that they probably would never have considered if they hadn’t entered the world of work.
Take for example Sean O’Donnell, who began his working life as apprentice joiner at City Building. Now a member of our design team, Sean is combining his job with studying architecture part-time at Glasgow School of Art after being encouraged to pursue his ambitions by his lecturer at our Queenslie training centre.
Our annual apprentice intake is essential to maintaining a diverse workforce. We take great pride in being one of the biggest employers of female craft apprentices in Scotland, with about a third of all Scotland’s female craft apprentices on our books. Appointing apprentices has helped us to avert many of the skills shortages experienced by other construction firms. Over the last 12 years, we’ve recruited about 1200 apprentices and 70% are now in employment at City Building; securing our talent pipeline.
Apprenticeships – for those who work hard at them – are also an excellent way of securing permanent employment. We recently announced plans to retain 97% of our fourth-year apprentices – providing a great start to these young people’s adult lives.
I’m particularly proud of how we develop our apprentices’ social and citizenship skills. Our community benefits scheme encourages apprentices to engage with local groups and organisations that they might never have come across previously, giving them an education beyond the qualifications that they gain during their four-year programme.
As well as broadening their minds, I like to think that our community benefits scheme also helps our apprentices to become better employees.
While working in the home of a 91-year old social housing tenant, one of our third-year electrical apprentices, Craig Sideserf, went above and beyond to ensure the woman was comfortable. Despite being initially apprehensive about having people in her house, Craig immediately made the woman feel relaxed, taking time to fix her CD player and even getting up to dance with her.
As the world of work changes and jobs become obsolete, workplace learning has an important role in ensuring the next generation have the skills required to help drive forward our economy.
Supporting our apprentices will help us all of us to flourish and get the right people into the right jobs.
For more information on training opportunities at City Building please visit ww.citybuildingglasgow.co.uk