Are apprenticeships the way forward? Helping pupils into the workplace

There’s a lot to balance when you’re a teacher – managing your students’ coursework, teaching everything from the way cells work to conjugating French verbs, and prepping for exams. But what about after they leave school?

It’s increasingly important to make sure that students are well-equipped for life outside the classroom. That means with the necessary skills that they need to navigate life, study and work, but also the options students have when they leave school. According to The Scottish Government, the rate of employment is slightly higher than the rest of the UK – it’s understandable that students are concerned about their futures.

One promising route students can go down is apprenticeships. In light of Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2018 (5-9 March), we speak to Elaine Walls, Regional Partnership and Delivery Manager of the Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships at Skills Development Scotland (SDS) about what teachers can do to support pupils in making the right decision for their future.

A Growth Area

Pupils can apply for an apprenticeship like they would any other job – but there are plenty to go around and its (currently) less competitive than spaces at university or college. Last year, more than 26,000 Modern Apprenticeships started across the whole of Scotland. In 2018, there are 2,600 Foundation Apprenticeships available in August and more than 900 Graduate Apprenticeships, and its set to increase every year.

There are more than 80 different types of Modern Apprenticeship, covering hundreds of types of jobs – everything from administration to laboratory science and even childcare. Foundation Apprenticeships has 12 different frameworks, including civil engineering, social services and healthcare, and software development. In September 2018, there will be 11 different types of Graduate Apprenticeship available too, provided by 12 different universities across Scotland.

There are more opportunities than ever before across a huge range of careers and industries – The Scottish Government’s target is to get 30,000 young people into Modern Apprenticeships each year by 2020.


Apprenticeships let students learn the skills and qualifications they need while they’re in the workplace – which can make them feel both engaged and valued. It’s currently free to go to university in Scotland for Scottish students, but money can still be a barrier for many young people when it comes to full-time education. Learning and earning can be a more accessible and attractive pathway for many students.

A huge range of Scotland’s industries use apprenticeships because they teach the skills employers need for the jobs. There are areas of the Scottish economy which are experiencing a skills shortage, such as software development, civil engineering and social care. Students should be encouraged to consider careers that suit their talents though, and look at all the options available to them. Females should be thinking about STEM careers and males encouraged not to dismiss early learning and childcare roles.

There’s such a diverse range of career paths, from accounting to digital marketing to engineering, that there is something for everyone.

Careers Advisors

“It can be really helpful for pupils for teachers to get clued up on the different apprenticeship options and how they work,” notes Elaine. Encouraging pupils to think about their options and weigh up what would suit them best is always a good idea, but it’s important to direct curious minds to the experts. For pupils who are thinking about their options after school, speak with your school’s careers adviser, as they have a wealth of knowledge on the different pathways available.

For young people in S1 to S4 who are interested in work-based learning, investigate Foundation Apprenticeships for one of their subject choices in the senior phase. I think it’s important that teachers understand the way the apprenticeship family works. We are keen for teachers to find out more about Foundation Apprenticeships, as they’re for young people who are still in school as part of their subject choices when planning for future careers, college or university.

A Foundation Apprenticeship can also be a pathway into a Modern Apprenticeship – although not the only one.

Careers fairs and events are a great way of really boosting pupils’ understanding of apprenticeships and how they work, and Scottish Apprenticeship Week is a good time to do this. Why not invite employers and their apprentices as guest speakers to gives talks to classes about the opportunities and benefits of apprenticeships? It gives pupils a real-world understanding of apprenticeships and how they work and makes it more real and relatable.


Pupils have to apply for apprenticeships themselves, but teachers can help with the process of identifying career paths which suit their interests and abilities. Subject choice time is important – you can help a young person choose subjects that will support their career interests.

“Teachers can offer support, but as this is the young person’s first step towards the world of work, they do have to take most of the responsibility themselves. For many, it is their first job application, so perhaps call on your SDS careers adviser to perhaps deliver a session on how to fill out application forms or how to write a CV,” advises Elaine.

Learn about all the different options available at and find out about entry requirements for apprenticeships at