Trailblazing in Early Careers. A quick history of the ‘Apprenticeships in Scotland’ social enterprise.
Our Early Careers business started in 2008 as a youth opportunities blog. Skills Development Scotland (SDS) had just been established but did not have a role in promoting apprenticeships as had been a feature of Careers Scotland. We set about filling the void as best we could and lobbying to establish a national approach to Apprenticeship promotion. We started a niche job board in 2009 under the brand ‘Apprenticeships in Scotland’ and operated it as a social enterprise project. We employed Apprentices to lead and run the project and launched from the top of Ben Nevis! They quickly became young ambassadors and in demand from key sectors to speak at conferences and support digital activities. We established an ‘Apprenticeship in Enterprise’ which, with the help of Fife Council, supported the development of our young team and went on to support 30 young people in other organisations in Fife. We first started Scottish Apprenticeship Week in 2010 with participants featuring in the Daily Record and benefitting from a personal stylist to help with first impressions at interviews!
The project was quickly supported by Careers Advisers and Teachers across Scotland. It became established as a key source of opportunity information for young people and their influencers, achieving 100k unique users and 10k subscribers by the end of the first year. Early adopters of the service included BT, QA, Microsoft, RBS and GSK, who promoted their programmes with paid commercial campaigns. The project featured on the BBC, was promoted widely by SDS, Young Scot and the Scottish Training Federation and drew interest (and visits) from Ministers and policymakers. This led to recommendations by the Wood Commission that the model is adopted as part of Developing the Young Workforce. The establishment of Apprenticeships.Scot then followed, for which we can claim a part in helping to bring about.
A small but important revenue for the project had come from work with apprenticeship training providers who could now promote their programmes for free with Apprenticeships.Scot, and so the focus shifted to keeping the project alive as enterprise learning employment for young people and a promotional channel for employers. In 2014 the project was led by Shannen Scott ‘from Apprentice to Chief Exec’ Shannen was runner-up for Young Scot of the Year 2014 and also runner-up as UK Enterprise Learner of the Year. You can see her video case study here:
This drew the attention of VET officials in the European Union. The project was recognised as a VET innovation and featured extensively across the EU as a best practice case study in youth enterprise and employability. It was translated into several languages, including Chinese. A delegation from China later visited our offices as part of a European tour of technical education institutions and programmes. The Apprenticeship in Enterprise Framework almost made it through the process to become a fully funded Modern Apprenticeship in Scotland, but not enough was done to convince the authorising MAG group of its value and momentum passed.
Liam Howard and Aaron Vaughan became key success stories and long-term legacies of the project. Having completed an apprenticeship double in both Business Enterprise and then Creative and Digital Media, Liam established the Creative Cause digital media agency in 2018 and, along with Aaron, operated the Apprenticeships in Scotland service under license, helping to reposition and rebrand as EarlyCareers.Scot. The project is now complete, and Aaron has gone on to become widely recognised as a young leader in the Early Careers space. Following a period as Scotland’s representative on the UK National Society of Apprenticeships, Aaron co-founded Early Careers Ltd, a positive and inclusive digital business committed to advancing the Early Careers Marketplace in Scotland and across the UK.