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Scottish employers turn to school leaver apprenticeships to attract diverse talent

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week in Scotland (7-12 March), new research from Grant Thornton UK LLP shows that Scottish employers are increasingly looking to apprenticeships to attract diverse, talented young people to their business.

Every Scottish mid-market business leader who responded to Grant Thornton’s latest Business Outlook Tracker* survey said that they currently hire young people who have completed their A-Levels (or equivalent exams) into apprenticeship roles, with almost three quarters (72%) saying they hire more school leavers in their business than before the pandemic. 64% agree that hiring school leavers is as important to their business as hiring university graduates.

According to The Sutton Trust, nearly one in four students say they are less likely to finish their degree because of the cost-of-living crisis. More than three in five (63%) students are spending less on food and essentials this academic year as a result of increases in the cost-of-living. For young people, these increasing financial burdens from self-funded higher education could explain the rising demand for paid apprenticeships.

Scottish employers also see additional strategic benefits, with more than half (66%) respondents to Grant Thornton’s survey agreeing that school leaver apprenticeships increase opportunity for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds within their business and 60% agreeing that school leavers perform just as well as graduates.

Stuart Preston, Restructuring Partner in Scotland at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:

“Mid-market employers Scotland are discovering the benefits of using apprenticeships as a development tool. These employers are strategically using apprenticeships to address issues such as improving diversity in the workforce, achieving sustainable recruitment, and replacing traditional graduate programs with highly desirable qualifications.

“Apprenticeships offer flexibility and the ability to tailor courses for specific development needs, making them particularly valuable to employers. These programs provide opportunities for training in high priority areas such as digital skills, finance, data analysis, and management, bringing new skills into the business and benefiting every organisation.

“At Grant Thornton, we are passionate advocates of apprenticeships as a valuable and effective route for young people to become trusted business and financial advisers. Apprenticeships promote social mobility in our communities and ensure a diverse and highly skilled talent pipeline for our firm, enabling us to provide top-quality service with teams that reflect the clients we serve.”

Grant Thornton UK LLP recruits hundreds of school leavers every year. In 2021, nationally it saw 103 school leavers join as a cohort of apprentices. But as it looks to expand its own talent pool by taking on individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, the firm has boosted that to 193 for 2022 – a record intake.

Talent and skills investment is vital to secure the loyalty of your people and attract in-demand talent. Apprenticeships deliver the skills both organisations and employees need to achieve their goals.

Alongside Grant Thornton’s success in recruiting hundreds of apprentices every year, they have also supported over 2,000 organisations in optimising the apprenticeship levy, allowing organisations to get the vital skills they actually need, all through high-quality development programmes. Employers can get help to realise opportunities through several development programmes in partnership with leading training providers.

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