Thousands of youngsters missing out on apprenticeships

Young people doubt training will set them up for future leadership 

Thousands of young people across Scotland could be missing out on high-flying careers by dismissing apprenticeships because they believe the training will not set them up for a leadership position.
That’s according to new research released today (Monday, 6 March) by Centrica, owner of Scottish Gas, to mark the start of Scottish Apprenticeship Week.
More than two-thirds of Scots (67%) polled in the independent national survey* say they don’t view apprenticeships as the best starting point to reaching a senior position in their career. Almost half (44%) believe university is the best start they can get.
Take it to the top
When asked about the most important aspects of a job at the start of a career, almost half of people in Scotland say ‘good earning potential’ (47%) and ‘opportunities for progression to a senior role’ (47%). However, two-thirds (67%) believe that only a degree would allow them to achieve these things.
Despite high quality apprenticeships on offer from employers, such as Centrica, which provide a structured learning experience with industry qualifications built-in, more than half of people surveyed in Scotland (57%) had not considered an apprenticeship as a training option when they left school.  Almost a quarter (24%) said they had not considered the option because it would not have enabled them to get the job of their choice.
Influencing career decisions
And it isn’t just the views of those considering apprenticeships that are affecting uptake; the research found parents’ views of the training to be hugely influential.
More than two-thirds (67%) of parents in Scotland say they would be proud of their children if they were accepted onto a university course, compared to half as many (33%) who would feel the same if their child was accepted onto an apprenticeship scheme.
In fact, 11% of people in Scotland said they did not consider an apprenticeship when they left school because it was frowned upon by parents or teachers.
Impact of apprentices
Despite the negative perceptions of apprenticeships, the majority of Scottish residents (84%) believe apprentices have a positive impact on a company’s performance. This is supported by Centrica’s own findings from its recent customer service apprenticeship pilot where productivity increased by 6% and the Net Promoter Score, which measures customer satisfaction, increased by twenty points.
Craige Heaney, head of Learning and Development at Centrica, said: “It’s worrying that future leaders in Scotland are limiting their options and not considering an apprenticeship as a route into an exciting and high-flying career.  We have several examples of people who started their career as a Scottish Gas apprentice and now hold a leadership position.
“Over the past ten years we’ve invested more than £260m in training 6,000 engineers and apprentices, because we recognise the positive impact this has on both our customers and business performance.
“By choosing to pursue a high quality apprenticeship that is developed by leading employers for apprentices of all ages, which also offer flexibility and transferable skills, the opportunities for people in Scotland to reach to the top are limitless.”
Challenging the research findings
The misconceptions about apprenticeships revealed by the research are in stark contrast to the experience of 1,200 apprentices who are training at the Scottish Gas Learning Hubs operated by Centrica around the country. When surveyed, more than 95% said their apprenticeship sets them up for a successful future.
In a survey that Centrica carried out among its own apprentices, nine in ten said they felt better equipped for the world of work than their friends who went to college or university.
Internal data from Centrica shows that once qualified, gas engineering apprentices go on to earn £325,853 over a ten-year period. Furthermore, joining one of Centrica’s apprenticeship schemes could open up twelve alternative career paths over the same period, providing diverse opportunities for apprentices to develop and progress in their chosen career.
Scottish Apprenticeship Week begins today and runs for five days, with events being staged at Centrica’s Learning Hubs to showcase what apprenticeships bring to businesses, individuals and the economy.

Case Study – Stuart Rattray, academy and health, safety & environment specialist at Scottish Gas

Stuart Rattray
As a bright-eyed apprentice aged just 16, Stuart Rattray never imagined that one day he would be responsible for helping to lead the Scottish Gas apprenticeship programme – and inspiring a future generation.

Now, aged 53, he has moved through the ranks and is currently responsible for training operations across Centrica-owned Scottish Gas’ Learning Hubs.

Rattray, who was born and raised in Wishaw, near Glasgow, left school aged 16 and landed his first step on the career ladder as an apprentice engineer at Scottish Gas’ Motherwell depot.

He quickly started to progress, and his hard work was rewarded when he was promoted to service technician, aged just 25.

Rattray soon began to develop a real passion for sharing his knowledge and skills with other colleagues, and after a couple of years, he decided to pursue his passion and apply for a role as a trainer at Scottish Gas’ Calton Road site, in Edinburgh.

Not only did he land the job – but he also became British Gas’ youngest ever gas trainer.

From here, Rattray spent time delivering a mix of classroom-based and practical training courses to learners. And in 2001, he landed the coveted role of Scottish Gas’ training centre manager, in Glasgow.

This crucial move paved the way for years of management experience, including developing new qualifications and training standards for Scottish Gas. This set Stuart up for his current role as academy and HSE (health, safety & environment) specialist, having previously led the 85-strong British Gas Academy team.

Now, Rattray wants to inspire others to consider an apprenticeship as a route to a successful career and a leadership position.

He said: “After school, I could’ve chosen college or university but I wanted to be able to earn and learn at the same time, and an apprenticeship gave me that opportunity. It also opened me up to the world of engineering straight away, giving me hands-on experience.

“I’ve been on an incredible journey over the course of my career, and I’ve still got the same hunger that I had 36 years ago. I’ve spent all my years at work feeling like it’s not even work!

“As an apprentice, you become a part of the culture of a company. You feel like what you do really matters.

“The opportunities are endless, once you’re in the door you’re not just restricted to one role – there’s a world of opportunity you can tap into. When I started as an apprentice engineer I never thought I’d end up leading the training operation for future apprentices.

“One of the most satisfying aspects for me is seeing people I’ve trained in the past go on to become senior managers – it’s fantastic to see how they’re doing and how they’ve progressed.

“Having come up through the apprenticeship route, my advice would be to go for it and trust your instincts. I’m living proof that you don’t have to go to university to have a rewarding career in a successful company.”

Centrica is training around 1,200 apprentices through six Learning Hubs in Edinburgh, Leeds, Leicester, Thatcham, Dartford, Hamilton (Scotland) and Tredegar (South Wales), Humberside, Manchester, and Staines.