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In this installment of the SAAB Spotlight On series, we hear from Paul Campbell, Head of Learning and Organisational Development at Scottish Water and Chair of the SAAB Employer Engagement Group. 

What does your company do?

Scottish Water is the main water and wastewater service provider for the people of Scotland. Providing 1.37 billion litres of drinking water and taking away 931 million litres of waste water every day, we play a key role in the protection of public health and Scotland’s natural environment.

We are incredibly fortunate to have people who are extremely dedicated to delivering a high quality and vital public service and earning the trust of the people of Scotland. 

How long have you worked at Scottish Water?

It will be 24 years this year! I started out as a junior operative on a four year apprenticeship programme, with what was Strathclyde Water at the time, before progressing into operational and customer facing roles. Moving into learning and organisational development (L&D) about 16 years ago I now have the responsibility of leading on this in Scottish Water.

What’s a typical day for you?

It can be quite varied which all adds to the enjoyment of my role!  A typical day might involve shaping and designing a new learning or talent development programme, developing a new or existing area of learning or talent strategy, working with training or educational suppliers and providers or attending external meetings to support youth talent and development. 

I'll also frequently monitor and review L&D operations, our talent and succession plans and our organisational compliance levels.  

Do you have an apprenticeship programme at Scottish Water?

Yes, we have a broad range of apprenticeship programmes which will typically range from about two to five years depending upon the nature of the apprenticeship and the level of qualifications involved.  The majority of our apprenticeship programmes run for four years and focus upon the integration of learning both on and off-the-job. 

Our apprenticeship programmes have high currency within our business, many of our leaders have themselves been former apprentices and there is a great deal of value placed on building for the future through the development of young people who understand the nature of our business, who have the technical skills required to perform safely and effectively, and who understand the vital role that we play within our communities and society. 


I believe there is massive potential to grow the apprenticeship offer in Scotland. Moreover, I think that the timing is better now than it ever has been.

Paul Campbell, Head of Learning and Organisational Development at Scottish Water and Chair of the SAAB Employer Engagement Group.

What is your vision for growing the apprenticeship offer in Scotland?

I believe there is massive potential to grow the apprenticeship offer in Scotland. Moreover, I think that the timing is better now than it ever has been. 

We now have a full family of apprenticeships which will allow greater flexibility and choice than we have ever had, and which will provide progression pathways for people to enter into development programmes and develop at different points and at different stages of life.

I would love to see us get to the point where apprenticeships are recognised by businesses, young people and their parents, and influencers, as a desired entry route to obtain a fulfilling career, as well as equal to entry into university for example. 

The apprenticeship brand is growing stronger each year and with the more formalised integration of schools and business activities there is massive potential to grow this further still and formalise the pathway from Foundation through to Graduate-Level Apprenticeships.

Why do you think the work of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board is important?

I think the work of the SAAB is vitally important as a means to bring the business community closer to the development of the learning programmes, frameworks and initiatives, that will enable us to capitalise business need for the future. 

The Board gives businesses in Scotland a chance to work closely with some of the key agencies and stakeholders within the Scottish skills community by providing an employer voice that should ultimately help to shape skills and investment strategies and inform policy decisions.

What is your biggest business achievement to date?

I had to think about this one. I always have a sense that one of my biggest achievements was actually securing the buy-in within Scottish Water of the need for Modern Apprenticeship programmes back in 2003. 

This was achieved not long after Scottish Water was formed in 2002 and, at that time, we were just starting out on a significant efficiency drive (to reduce 40% of our operational costs at the time).  It would have been easy just to focus on the short term but I managed to create a business case for a new suite of MA programmes which focused on building for the future, and we’ve been using MA's ever since. 

Which businessperson or company do you most admire and why?

Probably Richard Branson and Virgin Group whos vision is “changing business for good”. I always get the sense that this is a very genuine aspiration and ambition, so I suppose they have credibility and my trust.

What’s on your desk?

Nothing at all! We book desks based upon our location and anticipated duration at any point in time. As a result there is a clear desk policy so that everyone can touch down and find a space that’s free and clear wherever they are. 

When I did have a desk of my own however I had a model of the Tardis from Doctor Who, a small magnetic puzzle in the shape of planet earth, and a photograph of me and some colleagues climbing up the mountain Goatfell in the Isle of Arran!

Pret or Starbucks?

Definitely Starbucks – normally a vanilla latte.

What did you want to be as a child?

A pilot

Film or TV Box set?

That’s a hard one! A few years ago I would’ve definitely said film but with two kids, one aged 10 and one aged 5, it’s much more likely to be one episode of a box set these days! 

I’m looking forward to the next series of Game of Thrones.

Image credit: Neil Hanna Photography