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Apprenticeships are key to attracting and retaining local talent at AES Solar

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Solar panel expert AES Solar is providing vital jobs for young people to thrive in the community by shining a light on apprenticeships.

The Forres-based firm has developed its apprenticeship programme to achieve a 100 percent apprentice retention rate, whilst almost 20 percent of its workforce are apprentices, including an improving gender balance.

Experts in solar panels for homes and businesses, AES Solar first became an apprentice employer in March 2015 to provide more structured training and development opportunities.

Since then, the small business has engaged in 11 different Modern or Graduate apprenticeships at its headquarters in Forres, where there was traditionally a lower skillset among young people; something AES Solar’s commitment to opportunity is helping to overcome.

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AES Solar Marketing Manager Hannah Jakobsen said: “We place a high value on supporting youth opportunities in Moray as it can be a challenge to attract and retain young people in this region. We foster youth development opportunities in the area through apprenticeships. This allows us to diversify the local economy, encourage young people to stay and create a sense of ambition across the wider community.

“Despite everything that has happened in the last two years our workload has actually increased. So, by bringing on these new recruits it just increases our operational capacity. Successful apprenticeships mean we can delegate more roles, freeing up staff in other areas, which eases stress levels and ultimately it all means we can provide a higher level of customer service.”

Of the eight apprentices AES Solar have had or have currently, three are female including Hannah Leslie who completed two Modern Apprenticeships. The company recently welcomed its first female engineer to the team, with Kiera Wright joining as a Graduate Apprentice in BEng (Hons) Engineering: Instrumentation, Measurement and Control.

Perhaps the story that best sums up the full apprenticeship pathway opportunity is that of 23-year-old Cameron Duncan, who joined the company from Forres Academy in 2016 on a Modern Apprenticeship, progressed to Graduate Apprenticeship position and is set to graduate with honours in 2022.

Hannah continued: “Cameron is an invaluable addition to the Operations team. He joined us straight from school and is now in the final year of his Graduate Apprenticeship. During that time being able to see the increase in his confidence and his knowledge has been a great source of pride for everyone at the company. Not only does Cameron work in operations but he makes a wider contribution to the company, such as helping with the development of our core values, which is great to see.”

Cameron’s journey is just one example of AES Solar’s apprenticeship programme success, which resulted in the company being named as a finalist in the 2022 Scottish Apprenticeship Awards, in the SME Employer of the Year category sponsored by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

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.

Apprentices are always seen as a win-win investment, so we aim to have a significant percentage of apprentices within our workforce. Currently, the ratio of apprentices within our ranks is 17.86%. Looking ahead to our business growth and recruitment plans it seems unlikely that there will be a route where apprenticeships don't feature. Quite simply it’s impossible to imagine a future without them.

Hannah Jakobsen

Marketing Manager, AES Solar

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Find out more about Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships.

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