Thousands of school leavers will be thinking about their next steps this summer – and Scotland’s careers service, delivered by the Skills Development Scotland is here to help

SKILLS Development Scotland (SDS) is behind the national careers service, which offers free, impartial career information, advice and guidance for people of all ages across Scotland. 

Careers adviser Vaila Angus is based in Shetland. She said: “Leaving school and navigating your next steps into whatever comes next can be an exciting time for many people but can also be a bit confusing or overwhelming for some.  

“There are so many different opportunities, from employment or apprenticeships, college or university, volunteering or training and lots of different organisations or employers 
to consider. 

“Our job as careers advisers is to help people develop their career management skills so that they feel more confident in making career decisions throughout their lives.”  

For some pupils leaving school, they are looking for advice to help them get ready for their results. Vaila said: “Pupils who have applied to college or university may be holding offers, some may be conditional and will only be confirmed when the SQA results come out. Some may be unsure how their exams have gone and may be worried that they might not meet their conditions.  

“Speaking to an adviser can help consider possible alternatives and prepare in advance of results day so you have a back-up plan that you are happy with, rather than having a rushed decision later.” 

SDS advisers from across the country will be on hand with the Results Helpline in August. 

Vaila’s top tips for school-leavers: 

  • Do your research – whether you are looking for an apprenticeship, applying for a job or a course it’s important to do some research to know what to expect e.g. a company or course content. Use this knowledge to understand the right experience or qualifications needed. 
  • Think about what you want and need to get out of whatever you do next and why. 
  • This can help you weigh up opportunities to see which is the best for you at this stage


  • Get some experience – having paid experience is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge or ability. Volunteering or work experience are also good options. All helps with references and a foot in the door. 

WHEN Ronan Laurenson left Brae High School at the end of S4 in 2022, he had a very clear plan for his career path, thanks to help he received from his SDS careers adviser at school.
Ronan was on course to take a local college course to prepare for a cadetship, but the wind was taken out of his sails when his course was unexpectedly pulled. 

Ronan said: “When I found out that the access course at the college had been pulled it felt like a brick wall had been placed in front of me, as the only other option was the HNC deck officer cadetship. 

“To get into the course I needed a National 5 in Maths and English, which I didn’t have and couldn’t get, as I had already left high school by then.”  

Again, Ronan turned to SDS for careers advice to help him look for other options.

His careers adviser, Vaila Angus met with Ronan and helped to identify the skills and qualifications he needed to continue to pursue a maritime career. 

Vaila helped Ronan access support from The Bridges Project, which supports young Shetlanders aged between 14 to 19 years old by providing classes, courses and activities that aim to improve confidence, self-esteem, motivation, employability skills and qualifications.

Ronan explained: “When I talked to Vaila at SDS she managed to direct me onto The Bridges Project who said that they could help me get my National 5s in numeracy and communication, which made it feel like the brick wall had been knocked down and there was a new path waiting in front of it.”

Through the project, Ronan was able to achieve the qualifications he needed and get ready for independence and a life at sea.

As a result, the youngster was accepted on to a Merchant Navy course at City of Glasgow College and the 17-year-old is now finishing his first year on an NC in Shipping and Maritime Operations.

Ronan said: “I am exceedingly grateful for the support from Vaila and Bridges. 

“Without Vaila and SDS I would never have heard about the Merchant Navy cadetship or The Bridges Project. Without The Bridges Project, I would never have been able to do the cadetship if I did not get my Nat 5s. 

“I am also really grateful to The Bridges Project for securing me with a work placement with the Lerwick Port Authority until my college course started, which I learnt many practical life skills from, as well as an understanding of the maritime industry from the shoreside.”

Speaking from the ship he is training on, Ronan said: “I am currently in phase two out of the five phases in the course, which is the first sea phase. 

“So far, I have already learnt so many new things both in college and at sea, such as navigation, physics, shipping operations, time management, people skills and some basics in many different languages from the vast array of various nationalities onboard. 

“I have been on D-class Emergency Response and Rescue Vessels with my sponsoring company, North Star Shipping. I’ve been in the North Sea, right in between Scotland and Norway, and I am currently stationed 70 nautical miles west of Shetland.

“What I’ve enjoyed the most about it is that it is not your average nine to five job. But it is also a very professional, well-disciplined career where, if you put in the hard work and dedication at sea and in your studies, it has a lot of rewards 
to reap.”

Speak to an SDS careers adviser in school, at careers advice centres or community locations, or phone the customer helpline on 0800 917 8000. 
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Tech gives pupils a glimpse into the world of farming

VIRTUAL reality is giving young Scots the chance to experience agriculture careers in the classroom. 

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and The Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) have teamed up to open up the possibilities of agriculture careers for pupils. 

Callum (7) and Ruaridh (4) Bell try out a new VR simulation on life working on a farm at Royal Highland Show with David Phillips from Skills Development Scotland

The experience focuses on a variety of roles across Ardross Farm in Fife, highlighting the range of careers on offer with a focus on what it takes to get food from farm to fork.  

It’s part of SDS’s My World of Work Live programme of activity which is designed to inspire young people (8-18) to think about future careers through practical, creative sessions, using state of the art kit – all linked to Curriculum for Excellence. 

Pupils can explore a wide range of careers as part of the new experience, including Farmer, Agronomist, Precision Agricultural Specialist, Spinner, Research Scientist (supported by the Moredun Research Institute), Roots Operation Manager (supported by Kettle Produce) and Sales and Marketing Manager – all filmed at Ardross Farm in Elie. 

The free experience was launched at the Royal Highland Show, with hundreds of young people and their families engaging with the activity over the course of the four days in RHET’s Discovery Centre. 

Linda Innes, Design and Content Manager at SDS, said: “The interactive VR experience is an exciting and fun way to introduce young people to possible future careers, bringing new worlds to them to explore and find out more. 

“This VR experience will be at events across the summer for even more people to try, including the Belladrum festival and the Perth and Kinross Show. 

“My World of Work Live will then be taking this interactive experience into schools across the country from August.” 

Katrina Barclay, RHET Executive Officer, said: “Showcasing the variety of career opportunities linked to agriculture using VR can only be a good thing to promote the diversity and accessibility of the sector. 

“There really is something for everyone, and you don’t have to come from a farming background to have a successful and rewarding future in the industry. 

“We hope this is the first of many more VR experiences to come.” 

Tara Clark is RHET’s Project Coordinator and works with her family to run Ardross Farm.  
She said: “It’s becoming more and more difficult to recruit enthusiastic and skilled people to work on farms, and I think often it’s because young people don’t know the huge range of job roles available in agriculture as an industry. 

“This experience is part of RHET work to improve that knowledge. 

“It also fits well with our ethos at Ardross, where we work hard to show our customers and visitors the importance of having a link to where their food comes from. We do in-person tours of the farm for the same reason.”