Exploit Scottish Apprenticeship Week to open up opportunities for all youngsters, education boss urges

Apprenticeships can give young people with special needs a step up in life, as well as bringing multiple benefits to employers.

That’s the message from Stuart Jacob, director of Fife-based Falkland House School, an education facility for boys with a range of conditions including autism, Tourette’s, ADHD and behavioural problems.

Ahead of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, which runs from 29 February to 4 March, Jacob urged Scotland’s businesses to “look beyond the label, and look at the skills and talents” that youngsters like those at his school exhibit, and give them opportunities to learn and thrive.


Win-win situation

Jacob wrote in The Scotsman: “It is an ideal opportunity to raise awareness of the merits of a Modern Apprenticeship for both employers and young people. It’s also a chance to highlight the considerable benefits in considering those with additional support needs (ASN) as candidates for such positions and for employment in general.

“Additional support for a child or young person may be required if, for example, they have social emotional and behavioural difficulties, learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorder, mental health problems or care experience.

“If we are to deliver sustainable economic growth and create a more equal society it is vital that all those in our society are able to reach their full potential and contribute economically. Without this we are doing not only our young people, but our economy a great disservice.”


Early transition

Planning for education and employment for people with support needs must begin early, he adds, with colleges and employees working together to make the transition for students as easy as possible.

For example, Kieran is studying towards a Level 5 apprenticeship in sports and fitness at Perth College, after completing the Level 4 programme and an evening course in photography.

Recognising achievements and developing skills to help youngsters to become independent and employable is key, Jacob said.

This is crucial given the fact that more than 153,000 pupils in Scotland are classed as having ASN, and that school leavers with ASN are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as those with no ASN. A smooth and supported transition into work-based training programmes, like apprenticeships, can help to reverse this trend.

Jacob added: “As a society, we have a collective responsibility to give the most vulnerable people the chance to realise their potential and fulfil their aspirations. The rewards of getting these young people, many of whom boast excellent skills, into work are well worth it, with higher loyalty and retention rates.

“As we mark Scottish Apprenticeship Week I would urge Scotland’s businesses to look beyond the label and look at the skills and talents of these individuals and help to get more young people into employment.”