Apprentices going ‘from strength to strength’ with Caithness Business Fund support
Local employers have highlighted the long-term benefits of support for apprenticeships provided by the Caithness Business Fund.
The boss of one plumbing and heating firm described apprentices as “integral to our team”, while the owner of a hotel group said: “It’s wonderful to see our apprentices go from strength to strength.”
The Caithness Business Fund was established in 2013. Apprenticeship grants were introduced in 2019 and since then these have supported 10 apprenticeship opportunities in the far north in sectors ranging from agriculture and renewables to hospitality and business administration.
The assistance is helping to “level up” access to apprenticeships for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), ensuring they are equipped with the skills needed now and in the future.
SMEs can access grants of up to £5000 from the fund to help with employment and associated training costs for accredited apprenticeship opportunities within their business.
The Caithness Business Fund supported RDI Renewables with a contribution towards apprenticeship training for Dillan MacLeod, an apprentice plumber and heating engineer who is doing a BPEC Engineering Services Modern Apprenticeship.
The family-run business based in Thurso employs a team of plumbing, heating and electrical engineers who work across the north Highlands, designing, installing and servicing high-efficiency energy systems in domestic and commercial settings.
Managing director Ryan Pollard said: “As Dillan is a slightly older apprentice, we are not able to access the same level of funding contributions as we would for a 17 or 18-year-old. Along with bearing some of these costs, the support from the Caithness Business Fund has allowed us to access further training for Dillan.
“Apprentices are so important to our business. As they are trained in-house, not only do they grow and develop with our business but they become an integral part of our team.
“It’s a privilege for us to see our apprentices learn and develop into fully qualified engineers, and it’s fantastic to know you are an important part of their career journey. Through access to both on-the-job training and block release at college, the apprentices get a unique opportunity to study and train while they earn.”
Mr Pollard added: “From an employer’s perspective, we are very proud to be part of developing a skilled workforce here in Caithness and providing excellent career opportunities in a rewarding and rapidly advancing sector.”
Hotelier Andrew Mackay from The Caithness Collection supports a range of apprenticeship opportunities within his business, from cheffing and professional cookery to hotel management and leadership.
“One of our initial priorities when setting up The Caithness Collection was to facilitate worthwhile careers in the hospitality sector and to provide a learning platform showcasing hospitality as a career choice in Caithness,” Mr Mackay said.
“Apprenticeships provide the opportunity for meaningful on-the-job training alongside personal growth and success. It’s wonderful to see our apprentices go from strength to strength in achieving their ambitions and flourishing into indispensable members of our team.”
The Caithness Collection applied to the Caithness Business Fund for support towards a position for Riley Miller, apprentice trainee manager, studying an SVQ certification in Modern Apprentice Hotel Leadership.
Mr Mackay added: “Support from the Caithness Business Fund has been a great boost for our own business, and I would certainly encourage others to apply.”
Thomas Sinclair of Messrs Sinclair, Reaster Farm, Lyth, was pleased to receive support from the fund which he sees as an investment in the future of farming.
Apprentice Michael Doull is completing an Agriculture SQV 2 through UHI Orkney while working full-time on the farm. He has already passed his teleporter training test and will go on to receive accredited training in farming skills including sheep-shearing, transporting livestock, ATV biking and drystone walling.
Mr. Sinclair said: “I was taken by Michael’s initiative and enthusiasm for farming and he is already an incredible asset to the farm.
“When he initially got in touch, he was approaching the end of his schooling and looking for an apprenticeship opportunity. It has been fantastic to be able to access support from the Caithness Business Fund – the administration team were so helpful and went out of their way to help us.”
He added: “Of course, farming life is busy, and a spare pair of hands is always appreciated, but the support to take on an apprentice means far more than that. This apprenticeship is truly an investment in Michael’s future farming aspirations and should certainly set him up to achieve his goals.”
The Caithness Business Fund, managed by the Caithness Chamber of Commerce, is open for applications on a bi-monthly basis. SMEs interested in apprenticeship opportunities are encouraged to get in touch with the fund administration team – email [email protected] or telephone 01847 500104.
The fund’s mission is to promote the economic growth of Caithness and north Sutherland by supporting new and existing businesses and developing the skills base. It is available to both established businesses and start-ups based in Caithness and north Sutherland.
It was established following discussions between the Caithness Chamber of Commerce and Baillie Wind Farm. The fund receives money from Baillie and other developers and organizations that wish to promote economic growth and distribute funds into the business community through grants.