Anya Sturrock, from Monifieth near Dundee, always wanted to be a chef so when she was offered a Modern Apprenticeship in professional cookery she jumped at the chance.
Two weeks later, the country was in lockdown and the immediate future looked uncertain for the 17-year-old, who had left school to take up the job.
She told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: “I was in sixth year and was offered the apprenticeship and I was trying to see if I could still do my exams but school wouldn’t let me so I just completely left.”
In the end, nobody did their exams so she would not have taken them anyway.
But Anya says it was scary to go into lockdown so soon after making a life-changing decision.
She says: “I was so scared something would go wrong or something would happen, but doing this made me sure that I definitely want to be a chef.”
Anya is one of about 36,000 young people in Scotland training through Modern Apprenticeship schemes at the moment.
Modern Apprenticeships are jobs which let people earn a wage and gain an industry-recognised qualification.
Develop new talent
Anya’s boss, Hayley Wilkes, owns the WeeCook Kitchen in Carnoustie.
Her business employs Anya and two other modern apprentices, while also paying for them to go to college.
Ms Wilkes says she is keen to take on young people because she wants to encourage them into the hospitality industry.
She says: “A job in hospitality is actually a good job, even though it’s a hard job, so it is finding that right person who has that passion and drive to do it.
“I want to find that passion and nurture and develop it because I think they can progress.”
Ms Wilkes says it is good for her business to develop new young talent.
“They bring their own experience and they are not set in their ways,” she says.
“They are keen to learn and they are keen to develop and so they will surprise you.”
According to a recent Scottish Government report, if significant measures are not put in place to protect jobs, the unemployment rate of 16-24-year-olds in Scotland could reach more than 20% because of the impact of Covid-19.
- Nicola Sturgeon unveils ‘youth guarantee’ initiative
Earlier this month, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a £60m “youth guarantee” initiative, backed by additional money for apprenticeships.
Jake Horsburgh, 18, is employed by Fife Council on a joinery and carpentry apprenticeship, but spends part of his training at Fife College.
During lockdown, Jake had to come up with ways to practice his skills while college and work was off.
“We weren’t allowed to do much but I was trying to keep fit, and my dad had some wood in the garage so I was just trying to do anything to keep me going,” he says.
He has recently returned to college to finish his coursework from last year.
Jake says: “To start with we weren’t allowed to be within two metres of each other but we’ve got back to being able to.
“We’ve got to wear a mask and a visor when we’re working in small groups and obviously we’ve had to sanitise all the tools and wash your hands every time you leave or come into the building.
“It’s weird, but you’ve got to do it – it’s the new normal.”
Jake says his uncle was a joiner and he liked the kind of work he did.
“I want to hopefully have my own business one day, that’s the goal,” he says.
Jack Thomson is also a joinery and carpentry apprentice with Fife Council.
The 20-year-old, who is from Methil, says joinery and carpentry was what he enjoyed at high school,
“I liked all the technical subjects and just doing stuff with my hands so as soon as I left school, I had an idea of what I wanted to do,” he says.
Jack says he feels positive about his future despite the disruption caused by Covid-19.
He says: “The way stuff is going, a lot of stuff is going to change for the future and it’s going to stay that way, so we just need to wait and see what happens.”