Employers backed apprenticeships last year with more than 29,000 new starts supporting the economy.
A total of 29,035 people started a Modern or Graduate Apprenticeship in the past financial year.
Four out of ten apprenticeship starts were in science, technology, engineering or maths related job roles.
And three quarters were in higher level apprenticeships. The number of women taking up apprenticeship jobs also increased.
Business, Fair Work and Skills Minister Jamie Hepburn said: “These are encouraging figures, and I’m pleased that more than 29,000 people started apprenticeships last year, enabling them to access high-quality training while employed.
“However, the figures only cover the very start of the lockdown measures and don’t capture the huge uncertainty and anxiety that many people including apprentices will be feeling as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“We firmly believe that apprenticeships are an essential way to help people begin or progress their careers, while enabling employers to invest in their workforce and provide the skills that we need both now and in the future.
“They will be even more important as we enter the recovery phase and supporting Scotland’s apprenticeship family through the pandemic is one of my key priorities.”
The figures were published by Skills Development Scotland who administer funds for apprenticeships.
SDS chair, Frank Mitchell, said: “While Scottish employers continued to support the growth in apprenticeship opportunities over the past year, we are of course facing into a very different economic landscape due to COVID-19.
“Throughout the pandemic SDS has worked with Scottish Government, training providers, employers and other partners to understand the impact on apprenticeships and provide support measures.
“We can’t overstate the scale of the challenge faced by business and employers across Scotland. Any employer of an apprentice who needs help or guidance can contact SDS on 0800 783 6000.
“SDS continues to work with Scottish Government and the Enterprise & Skills Strategic Board with a focus on supporting apprenticeships during these unprecedented times.
“As we move towards economic recovery, reskilling, retaining and lifelong learning through work-based learning and apprenticeships will have a crucial role to play.”
Scottish Government’s economic recovery advisory panel will publish a report this month with youth employment and apprenticeships expected to be included in recommendations.
Find out more about apprenticeships at apprenticeships.scot
Stories of apprentices working throughout the pandemic
Jordan Fairlamb, Dawnfresh Seafoods Limited Supply Chain Graduate Apprentice
Supply chain graduate apprentice, Jordan Fairlamb has been based in the office almost every day since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The 19-year-old from Irvine has been helping his Uddingston-based employer, Dawnfresh Seafoods Limited, whose main activities are aquaculture and food manufacturing supplying most of the major UK retailers and also exporting worldwide.
Jordan said: “I feel lucky to have been able to continue to go into work during the pandemic. The business has put in place additional health and safety measures to make sure we social distance and practice hygiene. It’s been good to be able to speak face-to-face with colleagues where possible.”
Jordan moved into a new team at the end of February, working in procurement and responsible for checking forecasts and ordering ingredients.
Dawnfresh has been supplying the nation during the pandemic, which has kept Jordan busy in his new role.
He has also had to adapt and learn quickly to new ways of working with his team colleagues, who have both needed to work from home.
Jordan said: “I’ve definitely learnt new skills from working through the pandemic. I am checking and investigating any issues that arise on site, making sure that I am always keeping in touch with my team online. I’m making decisions and gaining confidence in my new role.”
Jordan’s work-based assessor has been contacting him every fortnight to replace visits.
Keeping up with university studies as part of the Graduate Apprenticeship has also been straightforward for Jordan, who is enrolled at Strathclyde University.
Jordan explained: “Campus days are now Zoom calls and weekly calls are recorded to help you catch up if you can’t attend them. Everything is online and so my studies haven’t been affected.”
Ailish Lavelle, Scottish Water waste water treatment modern apprentice
As a waste water treatment modern apprentice at Scottish Water, Ailish Lavelle feels proud to be helping to keep the water running for Scotland during the pandemic.
The 23-year-old has continued to work at Scottish Water’s Erskine waste water treatment plant throughout the lockdown.
Ailish, from Giffnock, said: “It has been good to be able to keep working on site. Scottish Water has introduced new measures with strict social distancing rules, policies to limit contact and use of PPE, face masks and hand sanitisers. It’s become the ‘new normal’.”
On a day-to-day basis, Ailish has been reading and analysing waste water samples, safely cleaning the water and dealing with essential contractors.
The waste water operator says she’s learned new skills as a result of working through the pandemic.
Ailish explained: “I’ve not been able to socialise on the job because of a limit on contact through policies like taking separate break times. It’s meant that I’ve had to work more independently rather than talk things through with the team. I think that’s given me more confidence to take decisions while having the security of knowing there will be someone available and on the end of the phone if I do need any advice or guidance.”
To obtain her SVQ, Ailish is having conference calls with her Skills Academy instructor for reviews. She also completed the last part of her HNC college course online.
Ailish ended: “My employer and instructor have both been very supportive and technology has enabled me to keep progressing in my apprenticeship.”
Kerr Ramsay, SKY technology modern apprentice
At the outbreak of the pandemic, SKY employee and technology modern apprentice Kerr Ramsay was part of the team making sure his contact centre colleagues were set up to manage customer calls from home.
The contact centre had to be prepared to deal with an influx of calls from customers who also needed to make sure they were well connected for home working.
Software technician Kerr, from Falkirk, explained: “It was important to make sure our agents had the software and connectivity at home to be able to contact and support customers.
“We had a test day before lockdown to make sure we could all connect to the networks.”
Just before lockdown, the 23-year-old had recently joined the test automation team as part of his apprenticeship with SKY and so has had to adapt and learn whilst working from home.
Kerr said: “I’m quite a social person and like to communicate face to face at work, so I’ve had to build on my communication skills.”
Working from home hasn’t hampered Kerr’s ability to build on his experience in his job to support the Mobile team and has been working on tests for products that will be put into production.
Keeping up with learning has also been a smooth process for Kerr, as most of his training documents are online and members of the testing team had already developed online workshops that helped him get to grips with his new role.
Kerr said: “My assessor, Geraldine, has been great. We’ve had monthly chats and catch up calls for assessments and she has been flexible in arranging video chats and professional discussions that have been recorded to support evidence of my achievements.”
Kerr enjoys his apprenticeship because of the variety of tasks he does on a day to day basis and this has been emphasised during the pandemic.
Kerr explained: “I love being able to investigate new issues with the software and fix them. Anything can happen at any given point and I love the reactiveness of my role and working with a team to fix the problem.”