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Scotland’s business leaders are continuing to back apprenticeships as a vital part of giving the nation skills to compete both at home and internationally.

Figures from some of the country’s leading employer bodies have joined forces to highlight the benefits of Scottish Apprenticeships for people, businesses and the wider economy.

“Scottish Apprenticeships are creating the new generation of Scotland’s skilled workforce, supporting our businesses to grow and prosper,” says Sara Thiam, Chief Executive of Prosper.

Tracy Black, Chief Strategy Officer of CBI agrees, recognising apprenticeships as a means to meet current skills gaps. She said: “Employers’ skills requirements across all sectors of Scotland’s economy remain persistently high.

“The speed at which these requirements are changing means a well-funded apprenticeship system with the agility to deliver what employers need now is vital.”

The ability to bring in talent and train it to meet pressing skills needs is why apprenticeships can support employers to build sustainable businesses.

Catherine McWilliam, Nations Director, IOD Scotland said: “Business leaders have a responsibility to future-proof their workforce with the skills required to take full advantage of the economic opportunities that lie ahead.

“Apprenticeships deliver by developing the next skills generation to help their businesses compete in a changing world.”

Around 90 percent of Scotland’s apprentice employers are Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and this is because apprenticeships enable employers to nurture and keep their own talent, according to Colin Borland, Director of Devolved Nations, FSB Scotland.

He said: “SMEs play a major role in creating apprenticeship opportunities across the country.

“Recruiting and retaining staff can be difficult for small businesses so developing the next generation of talent to get the skills we need now and in the future with apprenticeships makes perfect sense.”

Scotland’s largest sectors also see apprenticeships as playing a vital role in their own plans for growth.

Chief Executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise, Sandy Begbie CBE said: “Our sector growth strategy aims to harness Scotland’s immense human capital to fuel innovation and fill skills gaps.

“Apprenticeships significantly contribute to delivering the talent our sector needs to succeed and grow. We need them to safeguard Scotland’s reputation as a world-class finance ecosystem, that companies want to locate to or increase their existing presence.”

Paul Sheerin, Chief Executive, Scottish Engineering adds: “If we are to take full advantage of the opportunities a transition to net zero presents to Scotland, we must fundamentally change the volume of the critical skills required, through apprenticeships.”

Joe Pacitti, Managing Director for the Centre for Engineering, Education and Development (CeeD) said: “The strength of apprenticeships has really been that people can come in, they are better working in teams, they seem to have a greater understanding of what their mission is for the business and just that whole level of practicality. And I think the addition of Graduate Apprenticeships has really added to that as well.”

Looking ahead, Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce says employers are prepared to put more into apprenticeships, as they are seeing a valuable return on investment.

She said: “There remains untapped potential to harness the combined public and private investment in apprenticeships for the benefit of the Scottish economy.

Scottish businesses invest c.£10 for every £1 of public funding to support apprentice training. Business has the appetite to do even more as we desperately need these skills now.”

Of the 12,000 apprentice employers in Scotland, 90 per cent are small to medium enterprises with 83 per cent reporting improved productivity through their trainees.

With around 40,000 apprentices across the country, young people are getting the skills they need to succeed in life and work.

Chair of Skills Development Scotland, Frank Mitchell said: “Scottish Apprenticeships contribute to the fabric of Scotland.

“Apprenticeships are giving back to Scotland by supporting employers deliver economic benefits as well as societal wellbeing benefits across every part of Scotland.

“Strong employer endorsement and demand for apprenticeships shows the high value of work-based learning to enable businesses to generate the skills they need to compete now and in the future.

“Across Scotland, around 40,000 people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds are accessing high-quality jobs and transforming their lives through Scottish Apprenticeships.

“Apprenticeships also contribute by paying taxes as well as their employers contributing £10 for every £1 spent by Government to help training.

“It is very clear that Apprenticeships play a vital role in meeting economic, environmental and health and wellbeing challenges and opportunities, helping Scotland to become a fairer, more equal society.”

Minister for Higher and Further Education, Graeme Dey said: “Apprenticeships are vital for supporting young people into valuable, rewarding careers and helping people upskill, reskill and progress in their chosen careers.

“They provide life-changing skills that society needs to build a wellbeing economy, supporting our transition to net zero. The Scottish Government’s priority is for high quality apprenticeships that provide sustainable jobs and careers characterised by Fair Work.