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Piece by piece

It has been great to follow discussion in TESS about our need to rethink schooling. We know that we need to offer more and better options from a much earlier stage. The challenge is to make sure that we are increasing opportunities by creating pathways, not tramlines.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week (18-22 May) plays a key role. Now in its fifth year, this campaign is more than just a chance to celebrate the success of modern apprenticeships (MAs). It also showcases the benefits to businesses of all sizes, and to young people and their parents. This is vital if we are to address the recurring issue of "parity of esteem".

Young people, and those who influence them, need to be aware that an MA means getting a job and getting paid while also gaining an industry-recognised qualification. There are more than 25,000 new MA opportunities in Scotland each year, ranging from engineering, ICT, construction and life sciences to food and drink, tourism and retail. These are not ends in themselves; they can offer further opportunities in terms of higher education and career progression.

We are no longer in a world of single transition points and one-off decisions - this is one of the biggest changes that we all face. We need to enable our young people to make choices and give them options. Skills Development Scotland helps to achieve these ambitions by joining the dots between the needs of young people, schools and businesses.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week is organised and promoted by us but has really developed because of support from organisations who have a shared interest in the success of the MA programme.

The campaign has grown from a handful of events to more than 160 last year throughout the country. Businesses, apprentices, colleges, training providers and local authorities all get behind it. Employers - from family firms to global companies - are seeing the benefits of apprenticeships and want to join in celebrations of their contribution to businesses, individuals and the economy.

This support from employers demonstrates what we believe is the beginning of a cultural shift towards apprenticeships being coveted as a route into a career. It's important that young people, their parents and teachers get to hear more about the wealth of opportunity MAs offer, regardless of background or gender.

I hope you will go online not only to find out more about events in your area but also to hear directly from the proud and dedicated young people realising their ambitions through this programme. They are clear about what their hard work means to their employers and families.

It does feel as though the jigsaw puzzle of learning pathways is coming together - and MAs are a crucial piece.

David Cameron is head of careers management skills at Skills Development Scotland. For more information about Scottish Apprenticeship week, visit bit.lyApprenticeshipWeek

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