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It’s never been more important to show our support for apprenticeships, say major employers and training organisers throughout the Western Isles.

Lews Castle College, CalMac Ferries and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar were among those publicly enthusing over Scottish Apprenticeships Week 2021 at a time of major stress in the jobs market with the impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 epidemic. 

As part of #ScotAppWeek21 CalMac asked their team what apprentices and apprenticeships meant to them and their business.

Here's their Project Coordinator/Project Management Apprentice Katrine Hoey on what a Modern Apprenticeship means to her.  

Islander Scott MacDonald tells his story on https://youtu.be/7Vxxd-cgLe8

Another CalMac apprentice Jason said:" I love my Engine Rating Modern Apprenticeship with CalMac because it allows me to earn a wage while at the same time gain industry recognised qualifications."

LCC UHI celebrated Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2021 by sharing and celebrating the stories of their apprentices and the staff and businesses who support them.

Heather Cameron, pictured with Jessie,  is currently undertaking her Social Services Children & Young People Modern Apprenticeship with LCC UHI at An Cotan Childcare Centre.

She says:” I chose to do an apprenticeship because I left school and wanted to work in childcare. I came across the apprenticeship post and felt it was a good opportunity to go straight into working and work towards a qualification at the same time

“I was based in one nursery which allowed me to really get to know the nursery and the children, this showed me how nurseries work and by the end of my apprenticeship I will be fully qualified and able to further my experience.

“My apprenticeship allowed me to further my knowledge about childcare, how to work alongside colleagues and a lot of experience in a nursery with different age groups.

“I would say to any local businesses considering taking on an apprentice, that it is a great way for someone to gain a lot of experience and really be involved in a business.”

Erica Gearty, An Cotan’s Manager said: “Having Modern Apprenticeship students in the workplace is an asset to our service. They become part of the staff team and are willing contributors in all that we do. The extensive experience of our staff is passed onto our students who will in turn carry this forward into their future working environments.’

Looking at a different area of work, LCC UHI Lecturer Jamie MacLennan said: “An apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery will enable you to learn all the skills you need to be able to carry out your job safely and effectively. The great thing about Apprenticeships is that you get to earn while you learn and also gain nationally recognised qualifications at the end of your programme. 

Successful completion of SVQ Carpentry and Joinery (Construction) at SCQF Level 6, will also give you the opportunity to progress to an Advanced Certificate in Carpentry and Joinery which will further develop your hand skills in more specialised and traditional craft skills.

Site Carpenters can have a varied career working on new builds, refurbishments or in specialist areas.  After gaining work experience in the chosen occupational areas there are also opportunities to progress into occupational work supervision, management or technical support areas that compliment your new skills.  Carpentry and Joinery is a rewarding career that can take you anywhere in the world.

“Here at LCC we are fortunate to have excellent facilities that allow candidates to gain experience that is not always available through their employers.  Our fully equipped workshop allows candidates to enhance their skills on modern, safe carpentry and joinery machinery whilst smaller classes benefit our candidates and allow for more one on one teaching time.

“The qualification is aimed at people wishing to learn skills in carpentry and joinery allowing them to progress through an apprenticeship, working towards becoming a master craftsman.  An apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery gives candidates the opportunity to gain onsite experience through their employer, whilst block release to the college helps expand their knowledge on the subject and hone their hand skills carrying out complex carpentry tasks.”

Iona Macleod, aged 21, recently completed her Social Services, Children and Young People apprenticeship at SCQF Level 7 and has been offered a permanent position working at the Stornoway Childcare Centre. 

Mother-of-one Iona said: “I first came for a placement to see if it was what I wanted to do, after my placement I was offered an apprenticeship. Saying ‘Yes’ to this was the best decision I have ever made.

“It was great learning whilst working at the same time as I found it easier to study for my apprenticeship this way. My plan for the future is to further my knowledge, experiences and skills by applying to do a degree or diploma in Childcare.”

Iona's former assessor, Maggie Drummond said: "I am so proud of Iona and her achievements. It was great being part of her journey and watching her grow in confidence. She has come a long way from when I first met her and it has been a pleasure seeing her achieve her dream of being a qualified childcare worker, secure a job she loves and be a mum herself."

David Gibson, Chief Social Worker for the Western Isles, said: “It is fantastic to see young people in the Western Isles be given an opportunity to achieve their goals and enter full time employment. 

“There is no doubt that Iona, having been supported through the employability programmes by the accredited training team and with years of practical experience will make a fantastic addition to Stornoway Childcare Centre.

“Congratulations to Iona and all our other apprentices progressing to full-time employment.”