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24 November 2023

Shetland pupils become apprentices for the day

Scottish Careers Week Work-based learning Apprenticeships Modern apprenticeships STEM

Young Shetlanders experienced the benefits of Modern Apprenticeships in a project aimed at tackling gender stereotypes in work.

‘Try Something Different: Be a Modern Apprentice for a Day’ offered 11 S3 and S4 pupils from schools across Shetland hands-on experience in sectors they wouldn’t normally consider.

Breaking gender stereotypes

Through the project, female students gained experience in an area of STEM such as Engineering, Automotive or Construction, and male pupils got to try Social Care and Childcare.

Any individuals who applied who don’t identify as either male or female were given the opportunity to choose what they would like to experience from the range of options.

Pupils also got the chance to practice applying for a job as well as getting help to prepare for future job applications.

The programme was targeted at addressing and breaking down gender stereotypes within work environments, as evidence shows there is clear gender segregation in some of the major Modern Apprenticeship sectors such as STEM, Social Services and Business Administration.

In 2021/2022, in all STEM sectors only 10.8% of apprentices were females. In contrast, in Construction and related Modern Apprenticeships 97.3% of apprentices were males. In Social Services and Childcare sectors only approximately 10% of apprenticeships were taken up by males.

MA For The Day Females In Male Dominated Industry

Challenging perceptions

The event took place on Wednesday 15 November, to help mark Scottish Careers Week. The initiative was led by UHI Shetland, supported by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Shetland Islands Council and Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Shetland.

This is the third time a similar activity has been delivered in Shetland, which currently has 357 apprentices working with employers across the region*.

Kevin Briggs, Head of Student Experience from UHI Shetland, said: “We are delighted to launch this initiative to school pupils again this year following a hiatus during the pandemic which stalled the momentum. Looking at our cohort of apprentices, places are still being filled according to stereotype and we would like to challenge the perception for all ages that occupational areas are restricted by gender but that they are open to all. Sometimes, it is not easy for individuals to enter a workplace that is dominated by a single sex, but we have to start somewhere. It is important to help instigate the conversation and for people to be comfortable in their skin to try something that may go against the grain. We welcome the support of SDS, DYW, Shetland Islands Council and the schools so that Shetland pupils get the chance to take up these opportunities.”

Through the project, the pupils experienced opportunities that are available as Modern Apprenticeships through local employer, Shetland Islands Council.

Corporate Services manager Jackie Watt from Shetland Council said “Occupational segregation is still an issue in some areas of the Council.  Having a diverse workforce is a positive thing – people are more productive and creative, and it means the Council has a bigger application pool for our ‘hard to fill’ jobs.  This programme is a chance to do something pro-active, giving pupils the chance to experience the workplace, speak to our current apprentices and understand what careers are available in the Council.  It’s a great way, following the disruption of COVID, to help young people make more informed and alternative career choices.  We really hope the young people taking part enjoyed their day and will feel inspired to become our workforce of the future.”

Opportunities through work-based learning

Pupils who gained experience on the initiative were from Anderson High School, Brae High School, Whalsay Junior High School, Sandwick Junior High School and Baltasound Junior High School.

The DYW Co-ordinator for Shetland schools Nina Elisabeth Høgmo said “It is vital that young people get real work-related experiences while they are still in school and through Trying Something Different, young people are able to increase their understanding of what it is like to be a Modern Apprentice a real work place!

SDS works in partnership with equality groups and other partners across Scotland to support employers to be more inclusive in their recruitment.

Skills Development Scotland representative in the North said: “The project is helping to challenge perceptions about the workplace and gender stereotypes with young people, by letting them see the opportunities available through work-based learning.”


*Source: SDS Q4 2022-2023 statistics on Modern Apprenticeships in-training for Shetland

MA For The Day Male In Female Dominated Industry (2)

More information

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