Scottish Land & Estates, which represents 2,500 landowners across Scotland, has called upon the Government during National Apprenticeship Week to back their proposals to make rural modern apprenticeships fit for purpose for today’s rural business sector.
Following strong demand from its members, Scottish Land & Estates asked Education Secretary Mike Russell to recognise the current constraints faced by rural businesses in taking on and retaining apprentices. The Cabinet Secretary asked Scottish Land & Estates to come up with suggestions for improvement in late 2011. Today (Friday), the organisation issued a series of straightforward suggestions to improve the attractiveness, uptake and delivery of apprenticeships in the Scottish countryside, which is often overlooked as a place for exciting career opportunities.
Former teacher Daye Tucker, Director of Scottish Land & Estates and Chairman of the working group on apprenticeships, has presented the findings and recommendations of her team to Mike Russell. She said:
“The current system of apprenticeships does not work well for many land-based rural businesses. Bureaucratic obstacles such as legal or training costs and health & safety constraints on top of essential elements like college attendance and employee mentoring are relatively inflexible. We were delighted when Mr Russell asked us to look at a scheme which would really deliver for both rural businesses and our young people looking to work in the sector.
“While the demand for a skilled rural workforce is evident amongst our members there is a clear need to encourage more young people, or those seeking a career change, into the sector. One obvious way to help make this happen is to create a modern apprenticeship scheme which will cater for the specialist needs of both employers and those looking for a career in the rural sector.”
Head of Policy Sarah-Jane Laing added:
“The Rural Modern Apprenticeship scheme proposal is linked to the work Scottish Land & Estates is now doing in relation to primary school education and work placements for secondary school pupils. We believe that rural businesses have a role to play at all stages of education and skills development, and we are looking forward to progress a number of what we are calling ‘Learning Ladder Initiatives’ – taking rural education from grassroots primary school level through to further and adult education."
Key elements of the Scottish Land & Estates proposal include:
· Employer collaboration and support. This would allow smaller estates and rural businesses to work in collaboration, perhaps through a joint venture, in order to address cost, resource and capacity issues and increase the number of opportunities available.
· Core skills and specialist knowledge. The scheme developed should ensure transferable employability skills as well as offering specialist training covering areas required by employers rather than being driven by the training provider.
· Training and evaluation. The research undertaken has shown that there is a lack of availability of proper training and bespoke assessment in specialist areas. Areas such as aquaculture, river management, ranger services, grouse moor management and general nature management, amongst others, should be paid particular attention.
· Flexibility of college attendance. The compulsory college attendance element of most apprenticeship schemes currently on offer does not fit well with rural employers in remote locations seeking to take on apprentices. Weekly day release is often neither practical nor financially viable for rural employers and can prevent them taking on apprentices as a result. A variety of approaches such as remote learning is suggested as an alternative.
· Employer support and awareness raising. There must be a greater degree of support for employers including removal of administrative burdens from rural businesses looking to take on apprentices. This can be achieved either through teaming up with other employers, provision of a small amount of grant funding or practical support provided by training or government agencies.