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With Scottish Apprenticeship Week activities all taking a slightly different format this year, West College Scotland was delighted to welcome Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills to speak to our Renfrewshire Council Foundation Apprenticeship Business Skills cohort.


The Minister met virtually with eight Business Skills pupils on Thursday 4 March, to find out a bit more about how they’ve been enjoying their studies, and how they’ve adapted to having a virtual industry experience.

Foundation Apprenticeships (FAs) which are now in their 5th year of delivery, are a work-based learning opportunity for senior-phase secondary school pupils. Like most FAs, the Business Skills is a two-year qualification which pupils choose as a subject in their 5th year at school. The first part of the programme takes place in College, whilst the second year allows pupils to get the skills and experience employers need.

Not only do pupils get industry experience through work-based learning; but through the Renfrewshire Council programme,  any Foundation Apprentice who successfully completes their qualification and applies to the Council’s Modern Apprenticeship Programme is progressed to the next stage of the Council’s recruitment process – an attractive proposition for many young people thinking about their future post Covid-19. Certainly, the feedback from the programme has been hailed a success by College, which is testament to the Council’s proactive approach and delivery. This is the first year that the Renfrewshire Council has delivered this programme, and all pupils are on track to complete in the next few months.

After speaking to the Foundation Apprentices, Mr Hepburn said:

‘I was delighted to attend Renfrewshire Council’s Foundation Apprenticeship Business Skills class, and I welcomed hearing first-hand about how Foundation Apprenticeships are helping to equip more young people at school with industry recognised qualifications. The practical experience and skills they learn will help them to meet industry demands, both now and in the future.

The young people completing Foundation Apprenticeships today are the skilled workforce of tomorrow.  Not only do Foundation Apprenticeships foster stronger links between employers and education, they also give local employers the opportunity to play a more active role in developing the young workforce and shaping the next generation of talent.

The feedback from these Foundation Apprentices today has been extremely positive. I was impressed by their enthusiasm, commitment and resilience to continue to learn and achieve during such challenging circumstances. I wish them well in their future careers.’

West College Scotland’s Assistant Principal for Student and Life Skills, Iain Forster-Smith, added:

“As Chair of the West Region Foundation Apprenticeship Steering Group I take great pride in the fantastic achievements the College and our partners have achieved in embedding Foundation Apprenticeships within our College School Partnership.  The Business Skills approach demonstrates the huge importance of providing a direct route to employment for young people and ensuring each young person is work ready, which is at the heart of everything we do.’

Cllr Jim Paterson, Education Convener for Renfrewshire Council, said:

“We’re delighted that the Minister got to meet our young people today and I’m sure he was as impressed as we all are with their enthusiasm, dedication and ability. Our apprenticeship programme is a real success story and the variety of opportunities offered in different types of industry give young people the chance to take that first step into their future career. We’re committed to working with local academic institutions and our business community and helping our young people into employment – apprenticeships are a hugely important part of this commitment.”

Skills Development Scotland Chair, Frank Mitchell concluded:

“Scottish Apprenticeship Week shines a light on the great things that happen when business backs talent through apprenticeships. Talented individuals of all ages and backgrounds have the chance to reach their potential with an apprenticeship. Scottish Government plans and the Young Person's Guarantee put youth employment and apprenticeships at the heart of Scotland’s economic recovery.   In challenging times, apprentices can play a vital role in supporting businesses and the economy now and for the future. For businesses backing talent, who can give someone the chance of an apprenticeship – there's more support than ever before.”