Can apprenticeships unlock Scotland's productivity?

There is a growing appetite for graduate apprenticeships in Scotland, says Jonathan Clark

Jonathan Clark

Can graduate apprenticeships be the key to unlocking Scotland's productivity

The ambition for a fair and prosperous Scotland requires a high performing economy, driven by high-performing individuals and businesses who can create and exploit new technologies and opportunities both now and in the future.

Skills play a vital part in improving productivity across Scotland.

International research suggests that advanced economies, with a better balance of academic and work-based approaches to skills development, reap economic rewards, particularly in terms of higher levels of youth employment.

Background: Graduate apprenticeship uptake triples

Read more: Degree-level apprenticeship scheme to be expanded in Scotland

More news: Ucas to offer degree apprenticeships applications

Developing skills

First launched in 2017, the graduate apprenticeship is a great example of how learners can develop these skills while in employment.

They offer individuals a new way to gain degree level, industry-recognised qualifications where their learning is contextualised on the job. They are also rapidly becoming an important way for employers to develop talent within their business and equip them for the future.

Graduate apprenticeships are offered in key sectors that need highly skilled jobs and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) continues to be responsive to employer demand.

For example, over the last year we have seen the launch of a pilot in “data science”. This will be followed by pilots in “accounting” and “early learning and childcare” this September.

The creation of graduate apprenticeships has involved universities, professional accreditation bodies and, most importantly, employers themselves. This strong collaboration has helped to ensure that the standards against which the apprenticeships are delivered are fit for both the academic requirements of a degree course and the needs of employers.

This week, SDS published its first report on graduate apprenticeships, setting out a range of early findings based on the first two years of delivery.

These findings highlight the fact that graduate apprenticeships are:

  • Widening access to learning and jobs for people, with uptake across a range of ages and backgrounds.
  • Being used by employers to upskill both existing employees and to take on new recruits.
  • Being accessed by employers in every local authority within Scotland (by 2018), with overall employer uptake doubling over the two years.
  • Increasing provision, with both participating delivery institutions and the number of graduate apprenticeships frameworks on offer rising each year.

As we communicate the benefits of Scottish apprenticeships to individuals, parents, and employers, our ambition over the next 10 years is to achieve significant growth within graduate apprenticeships.

We are supported by the Scottish government in our ambition to achieve this, with at least 1,300 new graduate apprenticeship opportunities available in academic year 2019-20, our third year of delivery.

Jonathan Clark is director of service design and innovation at national skills agency at Skills Development Scotland (SDS)

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