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Apprentices go Forth and prosper with green ideas


Apprentices are the driving force behind a greener future at Forth Ports and the firm estimates they will make up eight per cent of the workforce within two years – aiding a huge drive to cut Scotland’s use of fossil fuels.  

The largest port group in Scotland, with operations in Edinburgh, Grangemouth, Dundee, Rosyth and Fife, Forth Ports started employing apprentices as part of its workforce succession planning in 2009, with more than120 employed to date – including former apprentice Barry Heeps, now Head of Engineering.  

Initially the group took on Modern Apprentices only but recently added Graduate Apprentices – with a current intake of 22 Modern Apprentices and one Graduate Apprentice being recruited into the 550-strong workforce.  

Forth Ports Adam Hunter 16

Apprenticeship programmes in areas such as Port Operations. Plant Operations, Warehousing and Customer Service help support Forth Ports’ green ambitions as the group develops a robust Net Zero roadmap.  

This strategy will support the decarbonisation of vast UK supply chains by delivering improvements in efficiencies and emissions far beyond the organisation, involving a mix of fuel, equipment, infrastructure, and behavioural change. 

Forth Ports Learning & Development Manager Natalie Dalgleish said: “Our apprentices are encouraged to take an active involvement in projects supporting Net Zero.  

“One Green Energy project currently under way with significant input from apprentices is the installation of fixed power supplies or “reefer outlets” within the port to supply power to refrigerated containers.  
“Completion of this project will mitigate the reliance on diesel powered generators and will result in a seasonal reduction in CO2 emissions of 513,000 kg, providing net energy savings of 10 per cent to Forth Ports. This is equivalent to 17 per cent of Scottish operations’ overall diesel consumption. 
“For the past six months Forth Ports has been trialling the use of HVO (hydro treated vegetable oil) as a direct drop-in replacement for diesel across a range of port and marine equipment.  
“HVO has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90 per cent with no reduction in performance. HVO could make a significant early contribution in our journey to become a net zero company.” 

Forth Ports is focused on using apprenticeships to fill new vacancies and the largest ever intake of apprentices is being recruited into the business this year. The group is signed up to the 5% Club and is also involved with the Fuel Change Challenge.  

Natalie continued: “Adam Hunter is one of our third-year mechanical apprentices based in Grangemouth involved in Fuel Change.  

“As well as the technical skills apprentices like Adam develop alongside general awareness of Net Zero and sustainability, on a personal level you can see their confidence grow and they become more curious, asking questions and looking to challenge the status quo. Fuel Change starts that process and journey.” 

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.  

Forth Ports also work with local colleges to identify opportunities to support apprentices who have been made redundant. In 2022 the business was able to support a female engineering apprentice through the SDS Adopt an Apprentice programme. 

Natalie continued: “Katie Barclay was being made redundant locally, but through working with local colleges Forth Ports identified we could help her, so she is now completing her mechanical engineering apprenticeship with us.” 

Such success has resulted in Forth Ports being named finalist in the Supporting Net Zero Employer of the Year category for the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards.  

Winners will be revealed at the awards, organised by Skills Development Scotland and set to take place on 8 March during Scottish Apprenticeship Week from 6-10 March. Find out more about the award finalists and the event by visiting