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Young people today have more opportunities than ever before when it comes to deciding what to do after school – and it pays to get clued up on what’s available now. Foundation Apprenticeships from Skills Development Scotland, offer young people a head-start in the world of work while still at school.

Leaving school can be a daunting prospect – and that’s just for the young people who know what they want to do. For those who are still deciding, the idea of leaving the safe haven of school can be terrifying. 

But there’s one new option available to help make the transition from school to adult life that little bit easier, and give pupils a taster of a career option that could spark their interest.

Foundation Apprenticeships (FAs) have been developed by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to offer pupils work-based learning while still at school. It’s based on the successful Modern Apprenticeship format, but it’s aimed at pupils in the senior phase of learning – so they’re still in school and taking National and Higher qualifications alongside it. “It’s a new opportunity for young people. Rather than sit in a classroom and learn, they can go out and base their learning in the workplace,” explains Elaine Walls, SDS regional manager for Foundation and Graduate Level Apprenticeships. “They come away with a qualification that’s the same level of difficulty as a Higher – SCQF 6. The qualification is certificated by the SQA – the same organisation that certificates Nat 5s and Highers. It takes up to two years to complete, the reason being that there’s more hours assigned to the FA qualification.”


FAs combine school or college style learning alongside a significant placement with a relevant business. It gives young people the chance to start learning in a different context, while still studying at school – giving them the chance to broaden their skill set, boost their confidence and get an idea of what the world of work is really like. 

And the Foundation Apprenticeship comes with lots of opportunities too. It could help a young person discover the career that’s for them. They can also pick up skills that would be useful in another line of work altogether, helping them become ready to cope well in any workplace. And there are lots of different avenues they can take when it comes to further learning too.

“As well as work-readiness skills and solid experience of the sector, you have multiple ‘exit routes’,” Elaine explains. “We’re very careful to make sure this isn’t an end-point in itself. You can leave school after your FA and do a Modern Apprenticeship. With almost all of the frameworks, you’d get into an accelerated pathway so that you complete quicker. Or you can go to college and do an HNC or an HND. Colleges quite often have what they call ‘articulation routes’ with universities, so if you complete your HND at college, you can then move onto a linked university, and complete the final two years of an honours degree. A large number of universities in Scotland are also recognising the Foundation Apprenticeship as having equal value to a Higher, so you can use your FA for direct entry into university as well.”


There are currently 10 different types, or frameworks, on offer through Foundation Apprenticeships, all of which have been identified as crucial areas in Scotland’s economy, from engineering to social care and healthcare. These are all areas with potential for career growth and promotion, so a young person who starts out in the business skills framework in S5, for instance, could go on to be CEO of their own company one day. A range of qualifications make up the FA award – taken from SVQs, NCs and NPAs – all of which are recognised by industry professionals and learning establishments.

Foundation Apprenticeships are open to pupils in the senior phase in schools across Scotland, and over 1,900 places will be available after the summer holidays in all local authority areas.

“Foundation Apprenticeships really bridge that gap between school and career,” Elaine adds. “Work based learning is highly technical and highly skilled nowadays. The whole idea is that we’re now trying to allow young people, if they prefer learning by doing rather than sitting in a classroom, to develop their skills.” People say that today’s school pupils will be doing jobs that haven’t been invented yet – and FAs are based in the sectors in which those jobs will be available, giving a platform for learners to get into an exciting career for the future.

For more information on Foundation Apprenticeships and how to get involved, head to  or email  

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