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Webinar shares graduate apprenticeship success stories

Graduate apprenticeships are helping plug digital skills gaps in Scotland, particularly in the business critical area of cyber security. As part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week (7-11 March), The Open University in Scotland (OUiS) hosted an employer webinar to talk about the current digital skills landscape in Scotland and the role of apprenticeships in addressing skills challenges. Suzanne McQuade, Business Relationships Manager at the OUiS was chair of the webinar, called Can Graduate Apprenticeships address Scotland’s digital skills gaps? She was joined by William Murray, Skills Planning Manager (Digital) at Skills Development Scotland, Louise MacBean, Apprentice Programmes Manager at Capgemini and Andrea Robertson, Security Team Manager at Capgemini.

Digital skills are in huge demand and we are experiencing quite significant skills shortages in these areas.

Suzanne McQuade
Business Relationships Manager at the OUiS

The OUiS is helping Scottish employers address these shortages through work-based learning programmes such as its Graduate Apprenticeship in Cyber Security – available at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

William agreed that Graduate Apprenticeships have a very important role to play in ensuring employers have access to the skills they need now and in the future. “Co-designed with employers to support critical occupations and growth areas of the Scottish economy, the aim of Graduate Apprenticeships is to ensure that industry has a supply of highly skilled and qualified individuals and aligns talent provision with current and emerging skills shortages.”

He said the apprenticeships also support the Scottish Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee, an initiative that aims to offer every 16-24 year old in Scotland the opportunity of a job, apprenticeship, training programme or volunteering opportunity, set up to combat the fallout from Covid-19.

New report findings

William went on to discuss the findings of Skills Development Scotland’s annual progress report into Graduate Apprenticeships. Key findings from the report are that:

  • 3,512 individuals have pursued a Graduate Apprenticeship in the first four years of delivery
  • 500 employers are participating in Graduate Apprenticeship schemes, up from 140 in 2017, when Graduate Apprenticeships were first introduced in Scotland
  • 100% of employers said Graduate Apprenticeships are part of their long-term recruitment strategy.

The top three drivers for recruitment, as identified in the employer survey part of the report, are:

  • Attracting young talent and enhancing diversity - 77%
  • Developing skills to support succession planning - 70%
  • Addressing skills shortage vacancies, particularly in key areas such as IT/digital skills - 42%

The report demonstrates that Graduate Apprenticeships are broadening and diversifying the talent pipeline, leading to better gender equality in tech roles.

William said it’s vital that employers continue to invest in Graduate Apprenticeships in order to meet the ever-increasing demand for digital skills.

The digital technology sector is forecasted to be the second fastest growing sector in Scotland to 2029. The number of tech businesses has increased by 60% in the last eight years and there are now over 100,000 people working in technology roles.

William Murray
Digital Skills Planning Manager, Skills Development Scotland

He said only 40% of those people work for technology companies, with the other 60% working in sectors such as finance, energy, life sciences and the creative industries. “Forecasts identify that we need around 13,000 new people each year to fulfill employers’ technology vacancies,” he said. “These are particularly in areas of growth, such as cyber security, data science and software development roles.”

Best practice in action

One company that has been using Graduate Apprenticeships to upskill the workforce and boost its internal talent pipeline is the information technology services and consultancy company Capgemini. It has almost 700 employees in Scotland and faces significant challenges in recruiting skilled individuals in areas such as cyber security. “We see supporting apprenticeships as a productive and effective route to growing our talent,” said Louise. “By investing in Graduate Apprenticeships in Scotland we are addressing skills shortages, particularly here in the Highlands. Apprenticeships allow us to upskill our current workforce and offer rewarding careers, which in return increases service quality and retention.”

Andrea is in her third year of BSc Honours Graduate Apprenticeship in Cyber Security. “The biggest thing that I’ve always regretted is not going to university, so the opportunity to study work-based modules and learn more about my business sector really appealed to me.” Andrea said she is gaining new skills and knowledge all the time while on the apprenticeship and enjoys being able to embed her learning in her day-to-day work. Louise thinks Andrea has benefited hugely from the Graduate Apprenticeship and that there is a ripple effect within the business.

Andrea’s learning has been applied daily. She is gaining insights in areas that she previously did not have experience in. She has demonstrated a greater awareness at a technical and strategic level. And it has impacted on the wider team in lots of positive ways. It enables her to engage with clients and colleagues at a technical level, which has had a significant impact.

Louise MacBean
Apprentice Programmes Manager, Capgemini

To find out more about apprenticeships in Scotland visit

To find out more about how the OUiS is supporting employers with their apprenticeships needs, visit the apprenticeship section of our website.

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