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NorthLink Ferries celebrates apprentices with ministerial visit

5th March 2019

Photograph of NorthLink Ferries celebrates apprentices with ministerial visit

Serco NorthLink Ferries has been commended by the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, for developing young people from Shetland and Orkney and becoming the first and only ferry operator in Scotland to receive the highest Investors in People accreditation.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week 2019, 11 apprentices with NorthLink Ferries met the Minister at NorthLink's Stromness office where they discussed the benefits of modern apprenticeships and the opportunities being presented to them by Serco, the operator of the lifeline ferry service.

Engine rating apprentice John Breck, from Birsay, Orkney, started with NorthLink Ferries at 17 and has been working towards becoming a qualified Able Seafarer, Engine by summer 2019. Alongside his fellow apprentices on the ships - Ross Linklater (19), Rhys Missenden (18), Ross Gray (19) and Ryan Urquhart (21) - he has also been attending the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, Shetland to attain the relevant qualifications.

The apprentices regularly sail on NorthLink's vessels to gain the required sea time needed to become qualified Deck or Engine Able Seafarers.

20-year-old Coral Cumming is one of six shore side apprentices and has been working in customer services. During her time with NorthLink Ferries, Coral has completed her Business and Administration SVQ qualification and has been attending Orkney College in Kirkwall. Based at the Stromness office alongside NorthLink’s wider management, freight, marketing and operations teams has allowed Coral and the other apprentices to integrate with the full workings of the company.

Coral said, "Without a doubt, the best part of my job is the people I encounter. I work with a great team and get to talk to different people every day and working with NorthLink has allowed me to use my on-the-job knowledge and experience in my coursework to help me get the qualifications I need."

Serco NorthLink Ferries has been recognised for the support it gives its apprentices with a silver accreditation in Investors in Young People. The organisation is the first and only ferry operator in Scotland to receive a gold standard by Investors in People and a Health and Wellbeing Award.

Apprentices have been found through NorthLink Ferries involvement with Developing the Young Workforce Orkney. Since 2017, the team has regularly worked with the organisation to aid and identify career opportunities for local young people, including supporting initiatives such as CV workshops, ship visits for school pupils, work experience placements and apprenticeships.

Many apprentices have gone onto find full-time careers with NorthLink Ferries. Kayleigh Young (21) and Cristy Tulloch (20) are permanent members of the customer services team and are continuing to study at Shetland College to gain an SVQ level 3 in Business Administration.

Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands said: "Modern Apprenticeships are an excellent way for all employers to invest in their workforce and provide the essential skills the economy needs now and in the future.

“We want to see more employers making more opportunities available whilst helping drive up the quality of those apprenticeships, so Northlink Ferries as one of the key employers in the Northern Isles should be applauded for their unique first.

“As a Government it’s heartening to see young people from local communities gaining invaluable work experience, work placements and qualifications in their local industry today, giving them every chance of being the workers who will lead Scotland’s seafaring industry tomorrow."

Managing Director for Serco NorthLink Ferries, Stuart Garrett, said: “Modern apprenticeships with NorthLink Ferries provide young people from the islands with a route into successful careers and we’re very proud of all our apprentices, and the fantastic work they do on the ships and at our ports and offices.

“Being the first and only ferry operator in Scotland to receive the gold standard from Investors in People and Health and the Wellbeing Award is a great achievement. As a Living Wage-accredited employer we are always working to be the best we can be and as the first operator to receive silver recognition in Investors in Young people demonstrates that our apprentices get the very best support, guidance and investment to reach their potential.”

About NorthLink Ferries

Serco has operated the Northern Isles service since July 2012 providing scheduled lifeline passenger and freight services to the Northern Isles.

Named ‘Best Ferry’ at the Guardian and Observer Travel Awards 2016, NorthLink Ferries operate throughout the year with the MV Hamnavoe operating to Orkney on the Pentland Firth and MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey sailing to Orkney and Shetland from Aberdeen. MV Hildasay and MV Helliar provide regular timetabled freight services to both Shetland and Orkney. NorthLink Ferries has offices in Aberdeen, Kirkwall, Lerwick, Stromness and Scrabster.

The Hjaltland and Hrossey ferries sail every evening from Aberdeen and Lerwick in Shetland and have 117 en-suite cabins along with eateries, bars and retail shops showcasing the very best of island produce. The MV Hamnavoe, which has an excellent array of services on-board, provides a swift and reliable 90-minute crossing on the Pentland Firth, and offers a unique opportunity to sail past the Old Man of Hoy as it travels between Stromness in Orkney and the Caithness town of Scrabster.

More than just a business, we view ourselves as a member of the local community, serving key sectors within the Northern Isles economies. These include the agriculture, aquaculture and tourism markets, carrying the equivalent of over 43 thousand freight trailers and over 300 thousand passengers per year. This demonstrates the integral part played by the ferry provider working daily with stakeholders in all aspects of the operation.

This community integration, as well as support of the local economy, is important to us and we are therefore proud to purchase over 84% of products for our passengers to enjoy on-board from suppliers based within 50 miles of our operating ports. This has the added benefit of reducing the distances our deliveries have to travel, thereby reducing our environmental impact.

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