Uncertainty over recruitment is one of the biggest challenges facing employers in Scotland as the UK prepares for departure from the European Union. But there are practical steps businesses can take to bolster the talent pipeline as well as benefit the communities in which they operate.

Apprenticeships offer people the sort of hands-on training they need to succeed, while also offering businesses a flow of exceptional individuals with highly valuable skills. Workplace training offers a win-win for both trainees and employers and there is no better time than Scottish Apprenticeship week to highlight these benefits.

The range of apprenticeships available is wider than most people think and can start as early as S5 in school. Foundation apprenticeships, which require pupils to spend one day a week in an office or workshop, provides young people with invaluable experience of what it is like to be in a working environment as well as industry-recognised accreditation. These students are more employable and have that edge no matter if they continue their training with a Modern or Graduate apprenticeship, or they decide to go to work, college or university.

This is an important point – the career path for young people has never been more challenging, or indeed presented such a massive opportunity to spend their working time in different careers. Their lifetime of work faces increasing disruption from automation and globalisation – the same issues that face employers. The hands-on experience of work offered through workplace training is an effective way to develop skills sufficient to meet the demands of the future, increase understanding of what is available and enable more informed decisions.

Scottish Apprenticeship week exists to highlight the value of apprenticeships to students, teachers, employers and parents alike. Businesses and members of Chambers across Scotland already hold the full apprenticeship focus in exceptionally high respect – it simply works. Companies of all sizes, all sectors, see the apprenticeship model as an obvious way to develop and shape talent for today and into the future.

With Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships, there’s never been a better time for businesses to adopt the apprenticeships model into their employment mix. Across Scotland, thousands of businesses are involved in apprenticeships, supported by Skills Development Scotland. Further, Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) business groups across Scotland are doing stellar work providing information and opportunity to trainees and employers alike, as well as enabling young people while still at school to begin to focus on their career choices.

The recent economic data from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network’s Quarterly Economic Indicator survey , and many others, all point to an environment where business confidence is dipping, recruitment difficulties are expected to persist, and future investment expectations are slowing down. In this uncertain environment, we must continue to nurture and offer opportunities to Scotland’s future talent pool.

We at Scottish Chambers of Commerce, and many Chambers throughout Scotland, are examples of how small businesses can gain advantage by creating opportunities for potential apprentices. We have employed two and they are already making an impact to our business and wider team.

From my own experience of collaborating with apprentices, the value they bring to any business is abundantly clear. From increasing productivity to supporting succession planning, to accessing specialist skills and engaging in new technologies, apprenticeships are an important lever for all businesses to access and develop their own talent.

The game changer is to ensure that every young person across Scotland is aware of this message and the outstanding opportunities which the Apprenticeship career routes can offer.

Apprenticeships will be the key which unlocks the development of our future talent.

Liz Cameron OBE (CEO, Scottish Chambers of Commerce)