BUILDING SKILLS FOR THE FUTURE THROUGH APPRENTICESHIPS
By Sharon Blyfield, Head of Early Careers and Apprenticeships at Coca-cola Europacific Partners, assesses the role apprenticeships can play in addressing the skills gap in Scotland.
▏ Last week was Scottish Apprenticeship Week, which gave us an opportunity to sit up and take stock of the work we’re doing to support people looking to take their first step into the world of work.
The last few years certainly haven’t come without their challenges. But we haven’t let those challenges throw us o course – especially when it comes to championing the apprenticeship agenda. Dare I say it, we’re even starting to see the narrative on appretnticeships shift, with more organisations across Scotland, recognising that this is a positive way to fill the future skills gap.
Within our own business we put even more weight behind our apprenticeship programmes in 2021, expanding the number of apprenticeships we oer by 75%, and also re-introduced our graduate programme, so we can also oer young people a range of dierent routes into the workplace.
Now in 2022 we’re continuing to build on this momentum and oer a range of apprenticeships for all levels, whether a school leaver or a long-standing CCEP employee.
One of the biggest challenges we face is in pitching our apprenticeships to potential recruits as many schools still do not see apprenticeships as being equal to the traditional formal education or higher education pathways and are therefore unable to provide robust advice to their students.
Employers like ourselves have been working hard to challenge that perception and position apprenticeships as a viable option for those who do not want to go to university, or for those who have recently left university. As a result, we are beginning to see more young people who are interested in apprenticeships and we will continue to show what a fantastic alternative pathway they oer.
To build a workforce that reflects society now and in the years to come, we must ensure that our team is as diverse as possible. Since 2014, we have increased the gender balance from 25% female to 40% today, and 11% of our apprentices are now from a black or Asian heritage. This is a huge step forwards, but we are dedicated to going further. So, as well as offering early careers opportunities, we’ve extended our apprenticeships to existing employees through our Career Builder programme. As a colleague once said to me: “I always thought apprenticeships were for young people. Not true.”
Since 2017, we’ve supported around 70 colleagues onto the Career Builder initiative – it’s fantastic to see so many want to use the programme to further their personal career journeys.
We’re continuing to expand our apprenticeship programme and are currently recruiting apprentices to various roles at our East Kilbride site. We’re looking for ambitious individuals who want to learn and develop in their career, and who have a determination and a passion to succeed in their chosen field. I’m excited to welcome the next wave of talent.
We’re also expanding our outreach to more young people. During Scottish Apprenticeship Week we launched a live virtual work experience scheme for Oban High School, oering pupils a sense of what it’s like to work for CCEP and the opportunity to explore the range of dierent roles in the business.
Perceptions of apprenticeships are changing, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of that. But we know that there is still more that needs to be done to shift mindsets completely. We’re determined to give even more passionate people from dierent backgrounds the chance to take their first steps towards a new career path, at whatever stage of their learning journey.