Scottish Employer Perspectives Survey 2021

Results from the 2021 Scottish Employer Perspectives Survey.


This chapter explores employer engagement with apprenticeships, their reasons for offering (or not offering) apprenticeships, characteristics of the current offering, and the market potential for apprenticeships.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Foundation Apprenticeships (FAs) were introduced in Scotland in 2014 for senior-phase secondary school pupils, who spend time out of school at a college or a local employer and complete the FA alongside their other studies. In 2021, 50% of employers were aware of FAs, up from 43% in 2019. Awareness was higher among employers with over 100 staff (61%). By sector, Non-Market Services were more likely to be aware of FAs (61%), with Trade, Accommodation and Transport

less likely to have heard of them (42%).

Despite relatively high awareness, only 1% of all employers had an FA student undertake a work placement with them in the last 12 months. This represented 2% of employers aware of FAs, similar to the 3% in 2019. This rose to 11% among those with over 100 staff, the same proportion as in 2019.

Modern Apprenticeships and Graduate Apprenticeships

Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) in Scotland allow individuals to work whilst gaining an industry-recognised qualification and allow employers to develop their workforce by training new staff and upskilling existing employees. Funding is available towards the cost of training for individuals aged 16 and over who undertake an MA.

Graduate Apprenticeships (GAs) were introduced in Scotland in 2017 and offer work-based learning for qualifications from a Higher National Diploma (Higher Apprenticeships at SCQF level 8) to Masters degree (SCQF level 11) for people who are already employed or want to go straight into employment. Overall, 1% of employers had a current GA at the time of the survey. This increased to 9% among establishments that had any current apprentices (i.e. including Modern Apprenticeships), again the same proportion as in 2019. Larger employers with 100 or more employees were more likely to have had somebody undertake a GA (14%).

When discussing 'formal apprenticeships' in this report, this includes both Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships, but not Foundation Apprenticeships. Results in the remainder of this chapter relate to formal apprenticeships.

Prevalence of formal apprenticeships

Just under one in five employers (19%) offered formal apprenticeships in 2021.

As Table 7 shows, this is higher than the proportion of employers offering apprenticeships in 2019 (16%), continuing an upwards trend since 2014.

Table 7: Proportion of employers offering apprenticeships, 2014-21
  2014 2016 2019 2021
Proportion of employers offering apprenticeships 12% 15% 16% 19%

Base: All establishments (2014: 4,015; 2016: 4,009; 2019: 2,652; 2021:1,000).

The percentage of establishments offering formal apprenticeships increased with employer size, ranging from 10% of employers with 2-4 employees, to 53% of employers with 100+ employees, as shown in Figure 14. Overall, 17% of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) offered formal apprenticeships.

By sector, employers in Construction were most likely to offer them (43%). Employers in the Business and services sector were less likely to do so (14%).

Just over one in ten (12%) employers had staff undertaking formal apprenticeships at the time of interview, which represents a gradual increase since 2014 (9%). As was the case for offering apprenticeships, likelihood of employing current apprentices increased with employer size, ranging from 5% of employers with 2-4 employees, to 48% of employers with 100+ employees. More than one in ten (11%) of SMEs had staff undertaking formal apprenticeships. The patterns by size also reflect trends from previous years.

Figure 14: Proportion of employers offering apprenticeships (including those that have current apprentices) by establishment size
Graph showing the proportion of employers offering apprenticeships by establishment size.

Base: All establishments (1,000).

Most employers that employed an apprentice (63%) had only one apprentice, with a further 22% having between two and four at a time. The average number of apprentices per establishment was 0.4 (or 3.1 among those with current apprentices), rising to 7.3 among employers with 100 or more employees. On average, among every 1,000 employees in the Scottish workforce there were 23 apprentices (or 76 employees on average among establishments with current apprentices).

Most (79%) establishments that offered formal apprenticeships had been doing so for over three years. Around one in six employers (17%) had been offering apprenticeships for three years or less, including 8% who only started offering apprenticeships in the last 12 months, as shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15: Length of time employers have been offering formal apprenticeships
Graph showing the length of time that employers have been offering formal apprenticeships.

Base: Employers who currently have or offer formal apprenticeships (265).

Among those employers that had started to offer apprenticeships in the last three years[16], the main specific reasons for doing so included it being a good way to get skilled staff (39%), wanting to ensure that young people continue to enter the sector or company (28%), and apprenticeships being a good way to give young people a chance in employment (24%).

When grouping these specific responses into broader categories, reasons relating to acquiring talent were most common (58%). About a quarter (24%) also offered apprenticeships for altruistic reasons, 17% offered them to nurture talent, and 11% offered them due to financial considerations.

As Figure 16 shows, among those not offering apprenticeships the most common specific reasons for not doing so included employers not looking to recruit (18%), there being no need due to having a fully-skilled workforce (16%), apprenticeships not being offered in their industry (13%), and because they were not suitable due to the size of the establishment (10%). Unsuitability due to establishment size was previously the most common reason given, mentioned by 20% of employers not offering apprenticeships in 2019 and 18% in 2016.

When grouping these reasons into broader categories, structural barriers were most common (65%). A quarter (28%) said not offering them was their own choice, 11% attributed it to a lack of awareness and 8% were deterred by COVID-19 related reasons.

Figure 16: Reasons for not currently offering apprenticeships
Graph showing the reasons for not currently offering apprenticeships.

Base: Employers who do not currently offer formal apprenticeships (735).
Figure only shows reasons mentioned by at least 2% of those asked.

Over half of employers offering apprenticeships had some involvement in the design of the content (58%), an increase from 2019 (47%). Specifically, 8% of employers offering apprenticeships devised the training from scratch, 38% tailored or developed the content of existing external training to make it more suitable to their needs, and 12% did a bit of both.

Key characteristics of current apprenticeship offering

Apprenticeships are most commonly offered to young people under the age of 25 (90%).

However only around a third (36%) of employers offered them exclusively to young people. Around six in ten (57%) offered apprenticeships to individuals aged 25 and above; and 3% exclusively offered apprenticeships to this age group.

Employers were more likely to recruit somebody to do an apprenticeship (91%) than they were to offer them to existing employees (62%). Overall, just over half (55%) did both, while a third (36%) offered them exclusively to new recruits. Table 8 shows the groups of people to whom apprenticeships were made available by employers.

Table 8: Groups to whom apprenticeships were offered
Apprenticeship group Proportion of employers with apprenticeships who offer to this group
Age group  
Under 25 90%
Exclusively under 25 36%
Aged 25 and above 57%
Exclusively aged 25 and above 3%
Unknown 7%
Employment group  
Any new recruits 91%
Any existing employees 62%
New recruits or existing employees 55%
Exclusively new recruits 36%
Exclusively existing employees 7%
Unknown 2%

Base: All establishments who offer formal apprenticeships (265).

Three quarters of employers (77%) had provided formal training sessions as part of their apprenticeships, the same proportion as in 2019 and 2016 (77% and 78% respectively). This was consistent across different sizes and sector groups, however there were some differences by region, with employers in the Highlands and Islands region more likely to provide formal training (90%). Furthermore, almost three quarters of employers offering formal apprenticeships (74%) said their apprentices receive training delivered by a training provider, lower than in 2019 (82%).

Future plans

40% of employers plan to either continue offering or start offering apprenticeships in the future.

This is an increase from 26% of employers reporting this in 2019 and 25% in 2016. Three in ten (28%) employers that do not offer apprenticeships currently plan to do so in the future, double the corresponding proportion of employers in 2019 (14%). The vast majority of employers who currently offer apprenticeships plan to continue doing so (92%).

By size, the percentage of employers who plan to offer apprenticeships in the future ranged from a third (33%) of employers with 2-4 staff, to just over three-fifths (61%) of employers with 100+ staff, as shown in Figure 17. By sector, employers in Construction (67%) were most likely to want to offer them in the future, while Business and Other Services were least likely to do so (35%).

Figure 17: Proportion of employers planning to offer apprenticeships in the future by establishment size
Graph showing the proportion of employers planning to offer apprenticeships in the future by establishment size.

Base: All establishments (1,000).



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