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 oer by 75%, and also re-introduced our graduate programme, so we can also oer young people a range of dierent routes into the workplace.

Now in 2022 we’re continuing to build on this momentum and oer 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 oer.

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, oering pupils a sense of what it’s like to work for CCEP and the opportunit­y to explore the range of dierent 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 dierent background­s the chance to take their first steps towards a new career path, at whatever stage of their learning journey.

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