NatureScot finds Modern Apprenticeships can change the landscape

Apprenticeships are helping Scottish employer NatureScot to attract young people and create a blend of operational and technical skills.

NatureScot is Scotland’s nature agency with 30 years’ experience advising the Scottish Government. Formally Scottish Natural Heritage, the organisation rebranded to NatureScot in August 2020.

They are at the forefront of a new scheme to encourage the use of Modern Apprenticeships as a way of fulfilling the Scottish government’s target to have 5% of the workforce made up of young people.

Apprenticeships in Scotland

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It is also in response to the difficulties that young people experienced in trying to find jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

NatureScot has recruited a new Finance Apprentice as part of its drive to sign up 15 new apprentices across the whole of the organisation. So successful has the scheme been that additional apprenticeships may be planned for later this year.

Scotland’s natural custodians

The new apprentice started the programme in September last year and has joined an organisation that has nature at its very heart.

“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.

NatureScot is a public sector body and was formerly known as Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Its mission is to improve the natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it.

“We provide advice to MSPs, the public and local authorities. There are a lot of different skills needed in the organisation because we cover a variety of issues around policy, habitat, wildlife management and green initiatives, while also providing corporate services and finance.”

NatureScot covers the whole of Scotland but there are local activity teams that specialise in particular functions. Finance is one of them.

“We need people with operational and specialist skills and our Modern Apprenticeship scheme is designed to bring young people into NatureScot. It is part of our way to fulfil the objective for employers in Scotland to have 5% of their employees under 25,” she says.

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.

Win-win for apprentices and employers

The Apprenticeship scheme at NatureScot has been a runaway success, with the new recruits bringing drive and commitment to their roles.

“It’s a win-win situation,” says Katrina Marshall. “The young people 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.”

The young people we have recruited as part of our Modern Apprenticeship scheme bring in energy and a fresh, diverse perspective. Their enthusiasm and drive have really benefited the organisation

Katrina Marshall, People and Organisational Development Senior Adviser, NatureScot

While Covid-19 did present challenges with virtual recruitment and onboarding, the team managed to overcome these hurdles.

“As a result of Covid-19, young people find it difficult to get jobs and placements.  Accountancy is one of 15 planned Modern Apprenticeships in NatureScot.

“As an employer we benefit from the input of young people, and their place in the pipeline to fill new jobs. In return, they are able to put their learning into practice on the job.  It’s 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.

“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.”

The finance apprentice is working in the transactions team in the finance, planning and performance department based in Inverness. The apprentice will be supported by a line manager, mentor, colleagues and peer to peer support.

What are the benefits of apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are easy to set up and for the young people on the scheme they can be 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.

Further information

Employing accounting apprentices in Scotland

David Nunn is Content Manager at AAT.

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