Unemployment rates in Scotland are significantly higher for young people compared with adults. To change this, we need to support pupils to build the skills they’ll need to be successful when they leave school.

We developed Foundation Apprenticeships to help young people gain valuable, real-world work experience and access work-based learning while they’re still at school.

Closing the gap between the classroom and the workplace

By giving young people earlier exposure to the world of work, we’re helping them develop the skills, experience and knowledge they’ll need when they leave school.

For young people it’s the chance to get a head start on their careers by gaining an industry-recognised qualification, work on real projects and broaden their career options when they leave school.

And for employers, it’s the chance to attract highly motivated and committed young people who are willing to learn, identify young people who are right for your business and ensure your organisation has people with the skills you need.

Foundation Apprenticeships give us a solid talent pipeline a year in advance. We get an idea of peoples’ potential a year earlier and, without a doubt, it helps us find the right people.”

Stephen McNab, Apprentice Leader at GE Caledonian

“Foundation Apprenticeships not only benefit pupils by giving them a qualification and valuable work experience, they also benefit employers who offer placements in their workplace - having young people come into your business can bring fresh new ideas and help shape future talent.”

Mike Jeffrey, assistant principal for Income and Product Development at Edinburgh College

Learning in the workplace

Foundation Apprenticeships are a work-based learning opportunity for senior-phase secondary school pupils.  Lasting two years, pupils typically begin their Foundation Apprenticeship in S5.  Young people spend time out of school at college or with a local employer, and complete the Foundation Apprenticeship alongside their other subjects like National 5s and Highers.

Foundation Apprenticeships are currently available in 12 subjects including civil engineering, software development and financial services.  Foundation Apprenticeships are linked to growth sectors of the Scottish economy, so young people are getting industry experience which will help them kick-start a successful career in their chosen field.


"A Foundation Apprenticeship can lead straight into a job, further study at college or university, or a fast-track Modern Apprenticeship."

Diane Greenlees, Head of Foundation and Graduate Level Apprenticeships, SDS

Future ambition

Foundation apprenticeships are a fundamental change to the approach to education in the senior phase and that’s why we want more pupils to have access to more subjects. Our ambition is to have them be part of every school’s offer by 2020.

“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, Foundation Apprentice

Looking for more information?

Email us if you have any general or policy enquiries about Foundation Apprenticeships.

Visit Apprenticeships.scot, our online service for Scottish Apprenticeships, for information on becoming an apprentice and taking on an apprentice.

Skills Development Scotland is delivering Foundation Apprenticeships with support from the European Social Fund

European and Scottish flags. European Social Fund. Investing in a smart, sustainable and inclusive future.