My Modern Apprenticeship with NatureScot has taken my career to a new level

Modern Apprenticeships are providing a fantastic opportunity for Scottish career changers and new entrants to the workplace.

One beneficiary of the Modern Apprenticeship scheme at NatureScot is Liz Colmer. Liz is working towards her AAT Foundation Diploma (Level 5 Modern Apprenticeship) having switched to the Finance, Planning and Performance division from another department. Previously she worked in administrative roles within NatureScot.

“I would absolutely recommend the Modern Apprenticeship scheme,” she says. “It’s great to have this opportunity to develop my skills and I’ve enjoyed the theoretical learning and its practical application on the job. In addition, I’m working towards a respected professional qualification.”

NatureScot is Scotland’s nature agency with 30 years’ experience advising the Scottish Government. Formally Scottish Natural Heritage, the organisation rebranded in August 2020, with a mission to improve the natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it.

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Liz is one of 15 new apprenticeships across the whole of the organisation. So successful has the scheme been, that additional apprenticeships may be planned for later this year.

Growing and learning new skills on the job

Liz had been with NatureScot since 2000 and had worked in a variety of roles. In 2018 she went part-time and completed an HNC in Business in her local college.

“I’m 42 and it had been a long time since I was last learning,” she says. “It was scary but satisfying, and I enjoyed it a lot. Once I had finished my business course, I wanted to go back to full-time work. The Modern Apprenticeship role appeal to me because it involves learning new skills as well as consolidating my previous experience at NatureScot.”

Her new role is in the finance team and she has spent time shadowing the Planning and performance team, the Budgets team and is now working with the Transaction team getting hands-on experience in sales invoicing and processes.

“We’re very busy at the moment because it’s year-end,” she explains. “The most interesting part of the job is seeing the process from the other side. Previously I was a customer to the finance department, raising POs and dealing with invoices. It’s really interesting to see how it works from the finance side.”

Liz started the programme in September last year is studying for her AAT Foundation Diploma. Afterwards, she intends to continue to the AAT Advanced diploma (Modern Apprenticeship level 6).

“It is useful to have the AAT learning and the practical application of skills running side by side,” she says. “I get weekly support from my coach and it is a very supportive place to be.”

Scotland’s natural custodians

NatureScot is working towards Scotland’s ‘green recovery’ from Covid-19, and aims to be recognised as a world leader in looking after and enhancing nature by 2030.

“We work to enhance our natural environment and inspire the people of Scotland to care more about it,” says Katrina Marshall, People and Organisational Development Senior Adviser, NatureScot.

She says the apprenticeship scheme at NatureScot has been successful, with the new recruits bringing drive and commitment to their roles.

“It’s a win-win situation. Our apprentices come to work with great enthusiasm, they work hard and bring in fresh ideas. In return, they learn on the job and get coaching and mentoring as part of a specially-designed learning structure. It’s gone so well that we are looking to recruit more apprentices in the future.”

“As an employer, we benefit from fresh input. For the apprentices, it is a great way to build up skills and is an attractive alternative to going to university or taking time out to go to college, especially for career changers,” she says.

“Our apprentices acquire professional skills that they can use for the rest of their lives. In return, we get young people with different ideas and experience and huge career potential. The apprenticeship placement is for two years, and we anticipate that they will be qualified after 18 months so that also benefits us as an employer.”

While Modern Apprenticeships are spoken of as a way to support youth employment in Scotland following the pandemic, Liz Colmer says they are opening new horizons to people who want to change careers.

“I would absolutely recommend the Modern Apprenticeship. It’s great to have this opportunity at my age although it’s billed as a youth employment programme. It does also give a great opportunity for people like me, who want to expand and develop and move their career in a new direction. It opens up a variety of new roles for me and I can bring experience from my previous projects.”

What are the benefits of apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships in Scotland

Whether you’re hiring someone new or upskilling an existing employee, Modern Apprenticeships could be great for your business. Learn more.

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  • Apprenticeships are easy to set up and for the participants are as good – or better – than a degree. They provide practical learning without the cost of university fees or debt.
  • For the apprentice, the placement can lead not only to a full-time job, but great long-term prospects. It can be great for career changers and a way of nurturing and developing talent for the future.
  • For the employer, apprenticeships can help solve skills shortages and create a talent pipeline. They are affordable, easy to run and not time-consuming. They are great for upskilling existing employees and are a key tool for creating diversity and fresh talent without an organisation.

Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.

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