In his fourth exclusive column for FutureScot, Donald McLaughlin, Chair of SDS’ Digital Technology Skills Group, tells us how important apprenticeships are to the tech industry.

This month saw the ninth Scottish Apprenticeship Week (SAW) take place right across the country, which highlighted the impact of work-based learning for companies, individuals and for the wider economy as a whole.

This year’s event – the most successful to date –  had a real digital focus. The importance of apprenticeships to our sector was reinforced when Kate Forbes, the Digital Economy Minister, visited SwarmOnline’s Edinburgh office as part of SAW to meet and chat with their Graduate Apprentice, Iza Ledzka.

Iza is studying for a BSc in Software Development for Business at Heriot Watt, and she was quick to tell the Minister about the life changing impact of the apprenticeship programme. She told Kate that if she was unable to earn while she learned, one of the key advantages of being an apprentice, she would never have been able to change career or complete her studies.

But it’s not only the apprentice that benefits from the scheme, companies can win big as well, as verified by Swarm’s MD Simon Mone. He told the Minister that he would actively encourage other businesses to provide training opportunities like this as the company gets as much out of it as the apprentice.

Meanwhile, back across the M8 corridor, we had the country’s first Foundation Apprentice specialising in cyber security. Steven Pearson joined Seric in Glasgow for 8 weeks to learn more about the business of online protection, an area of the tech industry which is in rapid growth, but unfortunately there is a real dearth of qualified talent out there right now.

Which is why SDS has created and launched a new Graduate Apprentice in cyber security. This course has been developed in partnership with employers and covers areas like identifying and analysing security threats and attack techniques, discovering system vulnerabilities and undertaking a security risk assessment, and understanding associated laws and ethics.

There is a wide range of digital apprentice options with different frameworks designed to suit all organisations, whether public or private sector, or charities or even small businesses.

-Foundation Apprenticeships involve working with a secondary school pupil one day a week at no cost to your company.

-Modern Apprenticeships are open to new or existing employees, who can work towards industry recognised qualifications in a way which is tailored to your company.

-Graduate Apprenticeships meet your needs if you are looking at higher level accreditation and are delivered in partnership with Universities and Colleges.

Taking on an apprentice can only be good for your business, offering an opportunity to train the future lifeblood of our industry, while also benefitting from a bespoke and value for money resource able to help your business grow.

For further information visit Apprenticeships.Scot – I guarantee you will not be disappointed if you go down the apprenticeship route to plug any skills gaps you might have.