Holyrood finance secretary Derek Mackay paid a visit to the Borders last week to mark this year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week.
He called in at the Scottish Public Pensions Agency’s Tweedbank office last week to find out how well the modern apprentice scheme launched in 2012 has been working out there.
The agency has employed 34 young people as modern apprentices since then, and 23 of them have gone on to secure permanent jobs either at its Tweedside Park office or at other Scottish Government departments.
Mr Mackay’s visit was also part of Scotland’s Year of Young People, and the agency, together with Developing the Young Workforce Borders, hosted an event giving apprentices and youth ambassadors from local schools the chance to discuss issues affecting their lives at a focus group session.
Mr Mackay, MSP for Renfrewshire North and West, said: “I am delighted to attend this focus group to hear first hand from young people involved in both the modern apprenticeship and the Year of Young People programmes and what these opportunities mean to them.
“Scottish Apprenticeship Week provides us the occasion to celebrate the benefits apprenticeships bring to businesses, individuals and the economy.
“Apprenticeships are also a fantastic way for all employers in Scotland, regardless of size, to develop their workforce.”
Agency chief executive Penelope Cooper said: “One of our aims here is our corporate social responsibility, and we are extremely proud of our achievements in supporting young people.
“Over the years, the agency has benefited greatly from the rich talent coming out of schools and universities through apprenticeships.
“We fully support Scottish Apprenticeship Week and the Year of Young People and the opportunities they offer to help support and nurture some of the great young people in the Scottish Borders and beyond.”
Zoe Borthwick, a modern apprentice at the agency, agreed, saying: “Joining the agency as a modern apprentice has been a really rewarding experience so far.
“The programme has allowed me to build my confidence as an individual and has improved my life skills.
“I am really enjoying my role in pension administration, and I hope to secure a career here following completion of my apprenticeship.”
Gordon Hamilton, a Year of Young People ambassador for Selkirk High School, added: “Being an ambassador has allowed me to develop as a person.
“I have learnt a number of life skills that I am very grateful for at this age.
“This opportunity has also given me a chance to give back to the young people of Scotland the recognition they deserve for their talents and achievements.”