For Scottish Apprenticeship Week (4 - 8 March), three apprentices on four-year courses with Scotia Homes told us what they loved about learning their chosen trades hands-on.
“The guys are really good. I’m treated just the same as everybody else,” Katie says.
“Woodworking was my favourite subject at school – but I didn’t think I’d get that much out of staying on there after my exams.
“I wanted real-life experience rather than being stuck behind a desk learning from books.
“I thought about going to college to get into construction, but at a careers open day I found out about apprenticeships. I never looked back.”
Get useful lifelong skills
“It was definitely the right thing to do – a lot better than anyone could’ve said. I’m learning while working and earning while learning. And I get a good qualification at the end too,” Katie says.
“In the first two years we cover principles at college, which we get to use at work. But I seem to learn more doing stuff at work. At college we do one topic a week, but at work you could easily do four things a day.
I’m out and about onsite, working in real homes, putting in windows, partitions, skirting, doors, window sills – everything. It’s pretty great!
“Quite a few of my school friends are looking at me and wishing they’d done apprenticeships.”
Bring back the sparks
The attraction of getting useful skills that employers want appealed to Sam Robertson, too. He’s an apprentice electrician at Scotia Homes’ Dubford site in Aberdeenshire.
“There’ll always be work for electricians,” Sam says. “Electrical systems have a complexity that I like. It keeps me interested and means I’ll enjoy my career in the long term.”
“I didn’t have any experience in electrics at all before I started. But I’m keen, hard-working and willing to learn – that’s what they’re looking for in the application.
“I was actually a professional footballer before this. I played for Aberdeen FC Under 20s. My contract came to an end, but for me the professional side of things took the joy out of the game so I didn’t take it further as a career. I still play for fun in my spare time.
I have absolutely no regrets about doing an apprenticeship instead. I love doing hands-on stuff, outdoors and I do laugh on a daily basis. I think it’s made me a happier person.
“With my qualification, I could continue working for Scotia, or go self-employed, or maybe take my skills abroad. My parents worked overseas and I think it would be a great thing to do.”
Set yourself up for life
Ryan Wilby was already working in construction with Scotia as a labourer when he became an apprentice bricklayer at the age of 24.
“When my daughter was born in 2016, I realised I needed to get a trade,” he says. “As the oldest on my course, it was a bit strange going back to college, but I’ve only got three weeks of college time left.”
It’s the outdoor stuff I enjoy much more, and that’s what most of the course is. I really like building Fyfe stone walls because you have to think about which colour and size of stone to put in the right place. It’s a bit of a puzzle!
“I had to take a wage cut as an apprentice, but in the long-run it will be much better for me financially.
“We have a good laugh on the course, and I’ve actually won two bricklaying awards since I started. My old friends who are still labourers are now thinking they should’ve done what I did.”
All three apprentices agree that doing an apprenticeship has been the right choice for them. “If you’re thinking about it, definitely do it,” Katie says. “It sets up a career for yourself. You’re building a path for the future. Just go for it!”