Realities of Scottish Apprenticeships in 2017

Score Group is seeing the green shoots of recovery in the global oil & gas industry and intends to continue to plan for the future by increasing the size of its apprenticeship scheme in 2017/18.  Plans are in place to recruit 80 apprentices within Score Group worldwide over the next 12 months.  This commenced with 25 engineering trainees and 6 business administration trainees starting employment in Score’s Peterhead operations in July.

The growth of Score Group globally has been fuelled by the successful apprenticeship scheme which has consistently provided talented people for key roles in the company both at home and abroad, with Peterhead being the main provider.  These are very positive moves following on from difficult years for the oil & gas service sector, however there are some harsh realities facing any large Scottish company trying to operate an apprenticeship scheme in 2017.

In 2017 the UK Apprentice Levy was introduced and any company with an annual wage bill over £3m is required to pay the 0.5% levy with the total collected for Scotland being c.£230m.  For Score Group the levy charge is a six-figure sum.  This is money effectively being taken from our training budget on the premise that it will be returned through government funding of training.  To date we remain in the dark as to where the Scottish Government has used the monies collected.  The new initiatives declared only appear to be re-distributing a small fraction of the levy pot leaving the rest unaccounted for.

By contrast the English system for re-distribution of the levy monies is transparent and promotes the modernisation of apprentice training, with all monies going back into industry.  Score Group has apprenticeship pathways which attract no funding from Skills Development Scotland, whereby under the English digital voucher model it would be simple to obtain funding for these apprenticeships from the Levy pot.

The Scottish government’s handling of the Apprentice Levy may seriously impact on Score Group’s future apprentice training unless the company starts to see an effective return of the levy monies.

The recruitment process for Score’s 2017 apprentice intake saw our teams make direct contact with over 200 young people in the North East of Scotland over the past 3 month period.  It is a concern that a growing number of those young people felt that the adults providing them with advice are trying to steer them away from the oil & gas industry due to fears over job security.  In particular there has recently been a severe drop in the number of female applicants for engineering apprenticeships.  The UKCS is a mature basin but one which still has a long life ahead of it and the skilled engineers who have been trained by companies in the UKCS are respected worldwide.

Score Group continues to recognise the importance of apprenticeships and particularly wishes to continue the success of its apprenticeship scheme in Aberdeenshire despite the lack of support from the Scottish Government for companies paying into the Apprentice Levy.

There will continue to be great opportunities for engineers trained in Scotland either working in the UKCS or taking their talents to other parts of the globe. Our industry and the education sector must be aware that the biggest risk to the long-term future of the oil & gas industry here comes from the adoption of short-term thinking.  The industry needs young people and especially young women.

The Apprentice Levy fiasco in Scotland has shown a complete disregard from the Scottish Government for industry and it has been especially damaging for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire having commenced during the downturn.  We need clear answers on where the money is being spent this year and future years.  The Apprentice Levy is paid by businesses, and hence people might not feel it is relevant to them as an individual, but it is their children and grandchildren’s future we’re discussing.

The reality is that the money collected is enough to make Scotland’s apprenticeship set-up the envy of the world and could bring leading technology industries to the country however the lion’s share of the Levy fund has disappeared into a black hole.

Conrad Ritchie

Managing Director

Score International Limited

We are now inviting applications for our January 2018 Apprenticeship programme in the following disciplines:

Modern Apprenticeship – Mechanical

Modern Apprenticeship – Machine Operator

Modern Apprenticeship – Technical Support

Modern Apprenticeship – Technical Support (Quality Control)


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