Learning only in the classroom doesn’t appeal to everyone – and the ongoing success of Scottish Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships prove there’s more than one pathway to career success

MORE young people than ever before are choosing the work-based learning pathway to launch their careers – according to the latest annual progress reports published for both Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships. 

The reports were developed by Skills Development Scotland and gave a timely reminder that, despite all the challenges experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, apprentices have been able to progress and achieve. 

In the last year 4,240 pupils chose Foundation Apprenticeships at SCQF Levels 6 and the pilot of SCQF Levels 4 and 5.  

The pilots expand work-based learning opportunities in school to support more young people at different ages and stages of learning.   

More than 3,500 people have also now chosen to work, learn and earn through Graduate Apprenticeship jobs – getting qualified up to Master’s degree level. 

Around 500 employers have benefited from Graduate Apprenticeships, getting the critical skills that will be vital to support economic recovery.  

Scottish Government has underlined its continued commitment to work-based learning and the pivotal role of apprenticeships in recovery and providing jobs through the Young Person’s Guarantee.  

The Guarantee ensures education, training, employment or an apprenticeship for everyone aged 16 to 24-years-old over the next two years.  

Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships align with the Young Person’s Guarantee by supporting post-school pathways to further learning or apprenticeships. 

Work-based learning also supports a number of other priorities identified by the Scottish Government in tackling economic recovery and future skills needs, including the drive for digital skills, green jobs and supporting sectors with skills gaps.  

Furthermore, the relevance of Foundation Apprenticeships is reinforced through SDS work with partners in response to the Youth Guarantee –

No-one Left Behind Initial Report to launch a comprehensive review of careers services in Scotland, which focuses on the pillars of Self, Strengths, Horizons and Networks.  

The Foundation Apprenticeships report shone the spotlight on the adaptations and enhancements made across the country, accelerated as a result of Covid-19, to give an authentic experience of the workplace of the future – including the emphasis towards online learning.  

The report also demonstrates that SCQF Level 4 and 5 subjects are giving young people from diverse backgrounds more access and opportunities to gain work-based learning qualifications at school.  
Foundation Apprenticeships are available in 12 subjects and provide work-based learning for pupils in the senior phase.

They offer new ways of learning, focusing on continuous assessment, rather than traditional exams to suit the varied learning styles of young people.


Pictured left, Wiktoria Bak, a former pupil at St Peter the Apostle High School, was one of the finalists in the 2021 Scottish Apprenticeship Awards

The publication outlines the work delivered by SDS in close collaboration with SQA, sector skills councils, learning providers, employers and local authorities from the end of the Academic Year 2019/20 to accelerate adaptations to SCQF Level 6 to support delivery during the restrictions posed by the pandemic.  

Looking ahead, Scottish Government has already committed to 5000 more opportunities in schools in the next academic year across all three SCQF levels.  

Skills Development Scotland, Director of Critical Skills and Occupations, Diane Greenlees said: “At the onset of the pandemic SDS worked closely with our partners to ensure that Foundation Apprentices could continue to progress and achieve.   

“As a result, Foundation Apprenticeships remain a vital option in the school curriculum, offering young people a high quality of work-based learning that leads to qualifications recognised by employers, colleges and universities.” 

Now in their fourth year, Graduate Apprenticeships continued to meet employer demands for skills and provided opportunities for learners during the pandemic through flexibility in delivery.  

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training said: “Graduate Apprenticeships – providing critical skills that employers need – have a key role to play as part of the national endeavour to drive recovery and transform the economy.  

“We know that many of the factors shaping the future of work, like rapid advances in technology, changes in the workplace and the skills needed to thrive, have been accelerated by the pandemic. And we also know that Graduate Apprenticeships – led by employer demand aligned to industry need – are designed to meet the requirements of the future now.” 

Skills Development Scotland Chair, Frank Mitchell said: “Not only do Foundation Apprenticeships provide an unrivalled early talent pipeline that employers need, they are an integral and critical component in supporting Scotland’s economic recovery.  

“As a nation we should be striving for work-based learning to be an entitlement for every learner to ensure the best possible outcomes for young people and the economy. 

“Despite the pandemic, Graduate Apprentices continued to progress with their learning last year and more opportunities than ever before were available for a new cohort of undergraduates starting their qualification. This is testament to the strength of employers in these occupational areas and to the innovation and flexibility of higher education institutions.” 
The reports are available to read at  www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk 

Opinion: Teacher Caradh Pert

‘Highers are not the only option for high value qualifications’

SINCE the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence and Developing the Young Workforce schools have been charged with helping young people to articulate their skills.  

Foundation Apprenticeships allow schools to deliver this objective and St Modan’s is seeing huge benefits for our pupils as a result.  

From the outset, providing Foundation Apprenticeships at SCQF Level 6 opened clear pathways for our young people as we recognised that Highers were not the only route to gain qualifications highly valued by employers.  

As a result, our Foundation Apprenticeship opportunities at Level 6 have grown year on year, with pupils able to take a range of subjects including Engineering, Creative and Digital Media, Civil Engineering and Social Services Children and Young People.  

However, we recognised that there were other pupils that would benefit from work-based learning but weren’t able to meet the criteria of a qualification at SCQF Level 6.  

To respond to this, the school created a Vocational Training Centre that aims to provide better parity of esteem for pupils.  

Within this work, the school embarked on a pilot with Historic Environment Scotland that tasked pupils with a construction project and gave them the chance to get an authentic experience of work.  

The pilot was transformational for the pupils. All of them progressed on to positive destinations, including university or apprenticeships and most continued to pursue their careers within the construction sector.  

So, when we were approached about introducing a work-based learning qualification at SCQF Level 4 and 5 we jumped at the chance because we had already witnessed the benefits in co-creating with employers.  

The school now offers Construction Foundation Apprenticeships at both levels. We work with Forth Valley College to provide 18 fourth year pupils with a qualification at Level 4 and the school delivers the Level 5 Foundation Apprenticeship in-house to 20 senior phase pupils.  

Whilst the pandemic has affected our original plans, it has led to more creative ways of delivery including virtual work placements with Morrison Construction.  

Pupils undertaking Level 5 Construction built playhouses for local nurseries, treating them as clients to gather briefs and working in partnership with them throughout the whole process from concept to completion.  

The outcomes from Foundation Apprenticeships at SCQF Level 4 and 5 have been amazing.  

The self-esteem and confidence of participating pupils has risen

They can articulate the meta skills they have gained very well, which has enabled them to secure interviews and successfully progress on to a job or further learning.  

Not only that, the standard of the workmanship the pupils have been producing on their apprenticeship is of an extremely high quality.  
Foundation Apprenticeships have helped St. Modan’s bring about the cultural change that we envisaged from the creation of our Vocational Training Centre.  

The work young people on these apprenticeships are creating is displayed on the school grounds, which is helping other pupils to see the opportunities available to them in the curriculum.  

For some learners at SCQF Level 4 and 5 the opportunity to gain this qualification through work-based learning is exactly what they are craving.  

At St Modan’s, our pupils tend to stay on until sixth year and we need a diverse and inclusive curriculum that meets the needs of every young person.  

Caradh Pert is Depute Head at St Modan’s High School in Stirling

This article was brought to you by The Herald in partnership with Skills Development Scotland as part of our Future of Educations campaign