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SAC Provider CPD Case Study: Supporting individuals onto apprenticeships & employability programmes

There are several steps that can be taken to widen the appeal of your vacancies and make them more inclusive.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) reviews the policies and procedures of learning providers recruiting individuals from under-represented equality groups as part of our quality arrangements. South Ayrshire Council (SAC) recognises the importance of diverse recruitment and was commended for the strategies it has put in place to tackle under-representation in its apprenticeship and employability programmes.

SAC delivers employability provision and a range of Modern Apprenticeship frameworks at different levels: Social Services Children and Young People (SCQF 5/6/7), Health and Social Care (SCQF 5/6/7), Horticulture (SCQF 5), Business and Administration (SCQF 5), Waste Management (SCQF 5), Hospitality and Tourism (SCQF 5), Construction Building (SCQF 6), Youth Work (SCQF Level 5/6), and Sports and Active Leisure (SCQF 5/6/7).

SAC’s recruitment strategies are outlined below, with thoughts from Cherlene O’Donnell, Employability and Skills Programme Officer at SAC. Modern Apprentices Graeme (pictured) and Jack also speak about their experience of receiving support prior to embarking on their apprenticeships with SAC.

Supporting individuals during recruitment and selection

South Ayrshire Council is committed to supporting individuals from under-represented equality groups onto their programmes. They have developed a ‘Care Experienced Guarantee’ whereby all care experienced young people who meet the job criteria are supported to access Modern Apprenticeship opportunities. SAC also guarantees an interview to candidates who have a disability and can evidence that they meet the competence-based requirements of the role. As Cherlene O’Donnell, Employability and Skills Programme Officer at SAC, explains, “this ensures that a young person with a disability has the opportunity to showcase their skills and abilities. Young people with a broad range of skill sets get the chance to contribute to our inclusive work force culture”.

Additional support needs are also considered throughout the recruitment and selection process. As part of the ‘Modern Apprenticeship Recruitment Process’ developed by SAC, staff are assigned key responsibilities for supporting all individuals, particularly those who may face barriers to getting into employment. A flow chart of actions is developed for each stage of the recruitment process, including prior to interview, during the interview, and in the post-interview stage. These include a strategy on how to support all candidates with the information and help they require.

Reasonable adjustments for candidates with ASN at interview are also outlined, including the provision of a scribe, reader, additional time, and other support as required. Communication is central to SAC’s approach. Modern Apprentice Graeme, who is completing an apprenticeship in Business and Administration, benefited from these reasonable adjustments. When selected for interview and feeling anxious about the process, Graeme was assisted with interview preparation and did a mock interview to allow him to practice and experience the format that the interview would take. At SAC, all teams follow the processes to ensure information is shared in a timely manner, and the relevant support and adjustments are in place for interviews. As Cherlene explains, “this ensures the candidate is well prepared and knows what to expect on the day, allowing us the opportunity to get the very best from them”.

Assessing job suitability and additional support needs

All individuals seeking to do an apprenticeship can also undertake a work placement prior to applying, supported by initiatives such as ‘No One Left Behind’. These placements are tailored to the individual and usually last six to eight weeks. For example, a learner with autism may want to experience the working environment prior to recruitment. This provides the applicant with experience in the workplace and gives the employer an opportunity to meet the prospective learner and see how they can best support them. The work placement has proven to be key in ensuring success once the apprenticeship starts. Individuals can see the environment, experience the tasks assigned to the job, and meet their colleagues. SAC tailors and makes adjustments during this period. This “ensures once the person starts their apprenticeship any teething problems have been resolved and, most importantly, the person is comfortable with their placement and tasks”, Cherlene explained.


Jack, a Modern Apprentice with SAC who is undertaking an apprenticeship in Leisure, undertook a placement before starting his apprenticeship. Jack explains that he received good support from his workplace supervisor and the placement gave him a lot of confidence which helped him when he went for his interview.

SAC also ensures that all applicants are assessed for job suitability prior to beginning an apprenticeship. Assessing individuals on their aptitude is important to optimise their chance of success and to ensure they can cope with the learning and demands of the job. Cherlene highlights:

We have a responsibility to support young people to pick an occupational area that they will enjoy and have the opportunity to flourish in”

Cherlene O’Donnell

Employability and Skills Programme Officer

SAC has various practical assessments in place for recruitment. For example, a typing test and group exercise (Business Administration), activities at poolside/gym to assess competence (Sport and Leisure) and practical assessments in their assessment centre for various trades (Craft). These assessment strategies ensure the individual’s skills and abilities align well to their job role. Cherlene emphasises the importance of these assessments: “We want to make sure we are getting the candidate most suited to the role and to do this it is really important to offer a range of assessments to allow people to showcase what they can do. Introducing a practical element to the assessment centre allows us to make sure we have a more comprehensive assessment of the candidate’s abilities and suitability for the role”.

The effectiveness of these recruitment measures is evidenced in SAC’s disaggregated statistics, which show that they are well above the national average in the proportion of Modern Apprenticeships starts who identify as having a disability or are care experienced.

For further information on how you can support individuals onto your programmes, you can find guides to inclusive recruitment on the SDS website.