Graduate apprenticeships “critical” to business growth, says report


SCOTTISH businesses regard graduate apprenticeships as critical for driving economic growth and increasing productivity, according to a new report.

The Edge Foundation report, Graduate Apprenticeships: Developing Scotland’s Future Workforce, also found that Scottish employers want more work-based learning opportunities.

The new study examines the current supply and asks if this is enough to sustain and respond to the future of the labour market in Scotland.

Researchers found that graduate apprenticeships (GA) are valued by employers and learners alike.

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

They do, however, recommend some changes around flexibility, funding and the broadening of disciplines available to help to strengthen the unique GA system in Scotland.

Graduate apprenticeships have been available in Scotland since 2017 and cover a variety of roles such as accountancy, engineering, care and IT.

Developed in partnership with industry and the higher education sectors, graduate apprenticeships provide work-based learning up to Master’s degree level.

They offer a blend of academic and work-based approaches where the apprentice learns while being a paid employee.

Minister for Higher Education, Jamie Hepburn, said: “The pandemic has had a significant impact on Scotland’s economy.

“Apprenticeships have not been spared the effects as employers have reviewed and delayed recruitment plans.

“While new apprenticeship starts are moving in the right direction, recent statistics suggest employers are still having to make difficult business decisions.”

He added: “The research commissioned by the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board (SAAB) will provide a good platform for discussions on how we can strengthen the impact and reach of graduate apprenticeships.”

Paul Campbell, Chair of SAAB, said: “Employers want graduate apprenticeships.

“They deliver the right skills, faster. Graduate apprenticeships combine theory and practical workplace skills from the start and therefore add value much sooner, unlike traditional academic education.”

The report highlights five key opportunities to further strengthen and grow the Scottish model, including recommendations to improve flexibility and allow employers to drive demand, secure longer-term funding and raise awareness of GA programmes in schools.

Findings also show that there is a wider international trend towards degree-level work-based learning and that employers are pointing to skills shortages, making it clear that they value broader ‘meta-skills’ such as team working, problem solving and communication, as well as skills learned within the workplace.