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Ruairi Gallagher photographed with Robert Wood at the FES Hand picked academy

Boosting school leavers apprenticeship chance – Hand Picked


Teenagers from across Forth Valley aiming to kick start their careers as apprentices took part in a top employability course run by building services company FES in conjunction with Hand Picked from CR Smith.

The thirty-four school leavers from Alva Academy, Stirling High School, Bannockburn High, Lornshill Academy and Wallace High School attended two Hand Picked Academies, each held over three days at the FES training centre in Stirling. The Academy courses were specifically designed to boost the teenagers’ chances of being selected for one of the 28 apprenticeships available at FES.

This is the fourth consecutive year of a successful collaboration between FES and Hand Picked, an employment opportunities programme run by CR Smith for young people.

Last year, six candidates on the Hand Picked course were offered apprenticeships with FES and 10 took up apprenticeships with other local companies. For those that don’t go on to become FES apprentices, they leave the course with greater skills and confidence to help them compete in the jobs market.

Robert Wood, Contracts Director at FES, said:

“Hand Picked came to us over four years ago and brought a fresh and unique approach to support young job-seekers and create a platform for them to learn important employability skills whilst showcasing themselves to prospective employers.

“FES is a company based in Stirling which is proud to do its part to help local schools and their young people as they go out into the workplace. We see the Hand Picked Academies as a good platform to help bridge the gap between school and starting work.  It is our way of giving back to the local community to assist its young people with the Academies which are dynamic, pro-active and extremely professional.”

He continued:

“We now recruit a third of our apprentices through delivery of this course, however the main benefit we see is that all candidates walk away from the experience with newly found skills that make them visibly confident in themselves as they seek employment.”

Hand Picked delivered workshops on marketing yourself to an employer, selling yourself at interview, creating the right first impression, behaviours and attitudes in the workplace and identifying skills and attributes. In addition, the participants undertook in a number of practical, interactive workshops as well as an aptitude test, practical assessment and a first stage interview with FES senior managers.

FES take on apprentices to be plumbers, electricians, joiners, heating engineers and data engineers.

Ruairi Gallagher, a former Hand Picked Academy graduate and now working at FES, said:

“Hand Picked definitely helped me. I was 17 when I took part back in 2017. It helped me balance out my options and gave me the information I needed on the industry. I thought FES only did two trades but from this I saw there were a whole range of trades available that I was unaware of.

“The most helpful part was the hands-on day in the workshop. I had the chance to try out different activities, seeing where my strengths were and was given the opportunity to find out what I actually preferred. There was a PowerPoint presentation afterwards which helped me choose which trade to get into. I’m now half way through my Heating Engineering Apprenticeship and looking forward to my future career.”

Pauline McGeevor, Hand Picked Project Manager added:

“Our Academies are entirely focused on supporting young people into jobs and we are always looking to work with like-minded employers, such as FES, to provide a positive start to the working lives of young people in the local community.”

Hand Picked, which was set up by CR Smith boss, Gerard Eadie CBE, is the only employability programme of its kind run by private business. It works with employers who recognise that they have a responsibility in helping shape the future workforce. Approached entirely from the employer’s perspective, it teaches a young person about the jobs and skills required by businesses and how they should market themselves to prospective employers. What makes the course stand out is that it provides the candidates with honest, robust feedback while giving them new insights and experiences of what it means to get a job and more importantly keep a job.