Laptop loan scheme helps apprentices keep up with their studies

Electrical apprentices and trainees across Scotland have been thrown a digital lifeline after being loaned computers that will allow them to continue their studies remotely.

Laptops are currently being distributed to apprentices across Scotland by the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT) after joint funding by SELECT, the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB), and the Electrical Engineering Training Foundation (EETF).

Apprentices and trainees will now be able to continue with their studies via online learning platforms until colleges finally reopen in the coming weeks.

Anne Galbraith, CEO of SECTT, said: “When we went into lockdown, it soon became clear that some apprentices were suffering digital poverty and couldn’t continue their studies online.

“A SECTT survey found that 55 of our current 2,750 apprentices and trainees had no access to a laptop, tablet or similar equipment, so we felt we had to do something to support them.

“With no funds available to electrical apprentices, the SECTT Board of Trustees agreed that we should help and our colleagues at SELECT, the SJIB and the EETF immediately contributed towards the purchase of laptops.”

The first devices were distributed safely to apprentices and trainees across Scotland in July, with SECTT staff observing physical distancing and health and safety measures during handover.

One of the first recipients was Darren McLay from ID Systems UK, who said: “With the college and public libraries being closed I haven’t been able to continue with my college work. I’m therefore grateful to SECTT for lending me this laptop so I can now get on with things properly.”

Anne said: “In the short term, these measures will benefit our current apprentices until we can return to face-to-face learning, and will also play a part in learning and training in the future.

“This difficult and enforced situation has taught us that we can cover some topics remotely and we should use this platform as a support for all apprentices and trainees going forward.”

Plans are currently being formalised for apprentices in all stages to return to college in August and September.  Once they have completed their training, SECTT will focus on recruitment and supporting employers.

SELECT Managing Director Alan Wilson said: “We were delighted to be able to contribute to this extremely worthwhile cause. The past four months haven’t thrown up many good news stories, so it’s good to be talking about something positive like this for a change.”

Fiona Harper, The Secretary of the SJIB, added: “We were also more than willing to contribute to this project and have been encouraged to see the impact it has made already. There is obviously no substitute for face-to-face learning, but this lifeline will help the next generation until colleges can open properly once again.”

SECTT was established in 1990 by SELECT and Unite the Union to manage the SJIB Training Schemes and today runs the only industry approved training scheme for electrical installation apprenticeships in Scotland.

Set up in 1998 and operated by SELECT, the EETF charity helps to develop the next generation of skills by providing grants to support training.