Robert Gordon University (RGU) is taking the university to the workplace in Orkney by hosting a number of Graduate Apprenticeships which allow students to work full-time and live locally, while gaining a degree.

Graduate Apprenticeships have been developed by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), in partnership with employers, universities and colleges, and professional bodies to provide work-based learning degree offerings, create stronger links between industry and education, and increase graduate employability skills.

Building on RGU’s strong connections to Orkney developed over many years through a wide range of collaborative projects, The Orkney Project aims to find effective solutions to some of the challenges of island life. The implementation of the Graduate Apprenticeship scheme further demonstrates the university’s commitment to the islands, with six different organisations currently participating in the first year of the programme.

The graduate apprentices benefit from a new type of training, putting what they have learned into practice immediately, with support from both their employer and the university. This method of study, with minimal time on campus, means those in Orkney can undertake their degree while working full-time and living locally.

In Orkney, there are 11 Graduate Apprenticeships across a range of sectors. RGU is providing degree programmes in Construction and the Built Environment to employees from Orkney Islands Council, Orkney Builders, Casey Construction and Heddle Construction. EMEC is benefitting from two Graduate Apprenticeships in Business Management and Engineering: Instrumentation, Measurement and Control and NHS Orkney has four Business Management apprentices and a further IT Management for Business apprentice. The programme offers the opportunity to upskill existing employees or recruit a new candidate to undertake the course so appeals to those already in full-time employment and school leavers.

Cath Russell, who is currently carrying out a Graduate Apprenticeship with The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, said she was really pleased to have had this opportunity to gain a degree but to keep working and the course gives her the flexibility to do both.

She said: “I’m really enjoying learning the theory behind what I do in practice. I’m finding that applying the theory to my own company is really helpful, it makes it more real if I can see it in action. I think I learn better by doing so being able to practically use my learning in my day to day job is great. Being in a class with others from different companies helps as I hear about other sectors and how their practice is similar or differs from mine. I can work through the online materials at times that suit me, which means I can fit in with family life and so far, it seems to be working well. The tutors are always on hand to answer any queries and the forums give us all a chance to discuss things.”

Orkney Builders Limited managing director, Stephen Kemp, believes Graduate Apprenticeships are an innovative way to develop their workforce while the graduates can continue to work and live locally.

He said: “The graduate apprenticeship scheme has made it possible to further develop our technical skill base by removing the barrier previously presented by being located on Orkney.”

A Graduate Apprenticeship Awareness Event will be held at The Orkney Distillery Visitor Centre on Wednesday January 30 in conjunction with Developing the Young Workforce (DYW). This event will provide an opportunity to learn more about Graduate Apprenticeships and how they can support businesses and students.

Fiona Campbell, Business Development Manager at RGU who will be in Orkney to host the event, said: “RGU have a unique delivery method for the Graduate Apprenticeships in that we utilise our Virtual Learning Environment to deliver the majority of the theoretical learning on-line and ask the apprentices to put it into practice in their workplace, only having to come to the Aberdeen Campus once a module (four times a year). This has allowed us to greatly widen our reach to employers across Scotland and we have seen great interest from the islands as these remote locations find it even more beneficial.”

For more information about the event, click here.

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