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Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Foundation Apprenticeships are supporting the Gaelic language and creating a pipeline of talent for the Highlands and Islands’ thriving creative industries sector.

Pupils taking the Creative and Digital Media Foundation Apprenticeship in Gaelic met with representatives from the British-Irish Council (BIC) to share their experiences.

The five young people from Portree High on the Isle of Skye travelled to Glasgow to present to the BIC’s creative industries team.

The session was part of an event hosted by Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

Growth of Foundation Apprenticeships in Gaelic

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) delivers Foundation Apprenticeships in Creative and Digital media in the Gaelic language.

This follows the successful pilot of the first Gaelic language Foundation Apprenticeship in 2018, to support Social Services Children and Young People.

There are currently seven pupils on the university’s Creative and Digital Media Foundation Apprenticeship, some of whom don’t use Gaelic as a first language.

Pupils gain experience of a range of disciplines within the industry over two years on placements with organisations such as community newspaper in the Outer Hebrides, Am Pàipear, leading Gaelic culture, heritage and arts organisation, Ceolas and Gaelic media production company MG Alba, which works in partnership with the BBC Alba channel.

The group has learnt from homegrown talent, including the producer of the popular comedy the In-Betweeners, Chris Young, and gained behind the scenes experience on the set of the Gaelic drama, Bannan.

Lights, camera, action

Creative and Digital Foundation Apprentices from Portree High on the set of soap opera, Bannan, with producer, Chris Young.

Expanding opportunities

The apprentices are also due to speak to local composer Paul Mounsey, who has worked on musical scores for major films including How to Train Your Dragon, Wonder Woman and the Solo film from the Star Wars franchise.

Pupils Niamh MacKinnon and Iona MacCaskill from Portree found out about Foundation Apprenticeships through the school’s Gaelic Department.

Iona said: “What attracted me to the Foundation Apprenticeship was that it was a bridge between high school and university, so provided a good stepping stone for experience and gave me an advantage over loads of competition I have when I apply to university.”

Niamh said: “After I complete my Foundation Apprenticeship I want to go into law and there is a link because the apprenticeship helped me grow in confidence and I’ve gained leadership skills through it. Also, when we are doing activities in class, we’ve done mock interviews, which will help me when I’m applying for university places.

“The Foundation Apprenticeship allowed us to expand the opportunities that we have in our language and gives us an extra advantage that we have studied in both English and Gaelic.”

Employer uptake

Murdo MacSween from BBC Alba said: “We’re looking to take on young people who can create video content and edit to make things for young people, as they are the audience and users of social media and know best how to create and tell the stories they want to hear. So, being able to find new talent through Foundation Apprenticeships is fantastic for us.”

Iain Fionnlagh MacLeoid who manages the Foundation Apprenticeship in Creative and Digital Media at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig said: “The Foundation Apprenticeship we offer gives young people a chance to get a really solid experience of the workplace in their own community and develops their Gaelic skills whilst supporting the local economy.

“We are working with a number of local employers in the delivery of the Foundation Apprenticeship and as a large employer ourselves we can offer young people experience in different areas of business so that has been beneficial for helping us tap into young talent.”

Supporting BIC Creative Industries Report

Formed under the Good Friday Agreement, the BIC has representation from the Irish Government, UK Government, Scottish Government, Northern Ireland Executive, Welsh Government, Isle of Man Government, Government of Jersey and Government of Guernsey.

The BIC’s objectives are to further promote positive, practical relationships among the people of the islands and to provide a forum for consultation and co-operation.

Foundation Apprenticeships in the Creative Industries and delivered in the Gaelic language are helping to drive the BIC’s ambitions outlined in its Creative Industries Report.

In the report, the BIC recognises apprenticeships as a route to equip employees for the skills needed for the industry and the importance of promoting grass roots culture, including minority languages.

Responding to skills needs

At the BIC meeting, the Foundation Apprentices were accompanied by SDS Gaelic Development Officer, Derek Mackenzie, and representatives from their school,, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and MG Alba.

Derek Mackenzie said: “It’s very important to have Foundation Apprenticeships in Gaelic and in the Highlands and Islands there is a vibrant Creative Industries sector, which has been referenced in SDS’s regional Skills Investment Plan and Gaelic language plan.

“There are a lot of Gaelic speaking employers, so it’s a natural development to create a Foundation Apprenticeship in this area, particularly in creative and digital media to support the needs of the local economy.”

David Martin, SDS Sector Manager for Creative Industries gave the delegates an overview of SDS activity in Creative Industries covering sector growth and challenges, Skills Planning for Screen and Textiles and how the industry can be supported through Scottish Apprenticeships.



More information

For more information on Foundation Apprenticeships, visit

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