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Today’s apprentices can be tomorrow’s CEOs

Work-based learning Employers Apprenticeships

Growing a diverse workforce should lead to a current apprentice becoming a future chief executive, says the Student Loans Company. 

The non-profit organisation administering student loans across the UK, the Student Loans Company (SLC) has grown a successful apprenticeship programme from a standing start in 2017, with eight Modern Apprentices and 25 Graduate Apprentices within its current uptake.

Apprenticeships driving diversity in workforce

That flow of emerging talent, with opportunities also offered to existing staff, has helped to address new skills needs and create a more diverse workforce for the organisation.

Student Loans Company Emerging Talent Specialist Stacey Wylie said: “Apprenticeships are a key component of our people strategy, playing a significant role in helping SLC to grow its own talent. We want to ensure our colleagues have the skills and expertise we need for our complex, ever-changing business now and in the future.

Student Loans Company Stacey Wylie 030

“Apprentices are helping tackle our gender imbalance in our technology teams. Through our STEM Women initiatives and network of female industry experts within SLC promoting opportunities, we have achieved 30 per cent female uptake within digital and tech focused apprenticeship programmes and 42 per cent within our overall programmes, which is above the industry standard.”

SLC became an apprenticeship employer in October 2017 with eight Modern Apprentices studying for their IT and Telecommunications Apprenticeship.

New recruits and upskilling

However, in 2018, it realised a more ambitious strategy and ramped up efforts, increasing to 33 Apprentices currently, eight on Modern Apprenticeships and 25 on Graduate Apprenticeships. The company has also recruited three Graduate Apprentices and seven Modern Apprentices and is upskilling 23 colleagues.

Stacey continued: “Our upskilling strategy is not only a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting changes with remote working, but also an SLC decision to offer apprenticeships as a development opportunity to our existing colleagues, further guaranteeing them the skills to excel; to collaborate and empathise with others and to create their own futures.

“We currently utilise nine apprenticeship frameworks across accountancy, business
management, cyber security, data analytics, data science, information security, IT
management for business, IT and telecommunications and software engineering.

"Each of these frameworks are areas of growth and future skills requirements for SLC, ensuring a pipeline of talent particularly in more digital and technology roles.”

Over 12,000 employers support Scottish Apprenticeships, which are work-based learning opportunities or jobs with industry-recognised qualifications. Designed with employers for employers, Scottish Apprenticeships are demand-led and responsive to regional skills needs.

Filling skills gaps

SLC’s work to drive opportunities through apprenticeships has resulted in the firm being named a finalist in the Large Employer – Promoting Diversity category of this year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Awards.

Stacey said: “Apprentices make an extremely positive contribution to SLC’s future skills agenda. Our youth talent and upskilling strategy has allowed alleviation of some recruitment pressures by attracting and developing new talent into skilled employees who understand our business. Our CEO wants future CEOs to come from our Emerging Talent programme which perfectly demonstrates the full pathway now available.”

Scottish Apprenticeship Awards

The winner of the Large Employer – Promoting Diversity category will be revealed at the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards, which is organised by Skills Development Scotland and set to take place during Scottish Apprenticeship Week from 7-11 March. Find out more about the award finalists and the event by visiting