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Glasgow school pupil Rabiya Sikander has gone from repairing bikes and dismantling games consoles at home to learning how to hacksaw, measure out materials and use impressive industry-standard machinery, thanks to a mechanical engineering Foundation Apprenticeship. 

Rabiya, 16, said: “I love making things and experimenting. That’s why engineering and the Foundation Apprenticeship appealed to me, the practical side of it – it’s really interesting.” 

With the Foundation Apprenticeship, I’ve learned lots of new skills that I didn’t think I was capable of learning, and doing things that I never thought I’d do.

Rabiya Sikander, Mechanical Engineering Foundation Apprentice.

Foundation Apprenticeships are open to young people in fifth and sixth year at secondary schools. Pupils can take a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of their subject choices, resulting in a qualification similar to a Higher. It combines college-style learning with a significant work placement, giving pupils a chance to put their learning to use. 

Notre Dame High School pupil Rabiya attends the City of Glasgow College’s state of the art Riverside campus two afternoons a week, and she will go out on placement next year to get a taste of the workplace. She says that the course has been a positive step for her. 

Coming from an all-girls school, I was nervous to start with,” she admitted. “I’ve never been in a teaching environment where I was working with boys. When I did come, though, I realised it’s not so bad. With the Foundation Apprenticeship, I’ve learned lots of new skills that I didn’t think I was capable of learning, and doing things that I never thought I’d do.” 

The teenager originally had ambitions of a childcare career, but a search on the Skills Development Scotland website brought the Foundation Apprenticeship to her attention – and she reckoned that the hands-on nature of the engineering qualification would be right up her street. 

Rabiya, who lives in Bridgeton, is now keen to move on to study an HNC in mechanical engineering when she finishes school, and then to apply for a Modern Apprenticeship in petroleum engineering. 

She said: “The Foundation Apprenticeship has made me realise that by getting a head-start in mechanical engineering at school, I can do lots of different things. It opens a gate to a wide variety of options.” 

She says that the apprenticeship has also increased her independence, and made her take a bit more responsibility for her learning – and her future career. 

“In school, if you’re stuck, the teacher explains it and gives you the answer anyway,” she said. “But in college, it’s totally different. When it gets explained, the lecturer doesn’t just give you the answer. They explain it, then you need to figure it out yourself. You’re learning, but you’re treated like an adult.” 

John Sweeney, Curriculum Head of Engineering and Energy at City of Glasgow College, says that the Foundation Apprenticeship programme is playing an important role in preparing young people like Rabiya for the world of work. 

John said: The ability to work with other students, the ability to be responsible for their own work – the Foundation Apprentices develop so quickly. They’re in an adult environment – they learn research skills, they learn communication skills, they learn teamwork skills. And that’s what employers want – they want soft skills. The Foundation Apprenticeship is very beneficial. 

Want to know more?

Visit for information on becoming an apprentice and taking on an apprentice.

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