1 March 2023

Scottish Apprenticeships: A Closer Look

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Scotland’s official animal is the unicorn. Its capital is Edinburgh, the first city in the world to have its own fire brigade. Those are facts about Scotland – interesting facts, you might say.

Another fact is that over 18,000 young people in Scotland started an apprenticeship last year. Did you know that according to reviews on RateMyApprenticeship, Glasgow is the 8th best-rated apprenticeship location in the UK?

More and more school and college leavers are choosing to do apprenticeships in Scotland. But why? And how do they work? What programmes are available?

Read on for a closer look at Scottish apprenticeships…

What is a Scottish apprenticeship?

You’ll often see apprenticeships being described like real jobs. They are real jobs. An apprenticeship is an opportunity to start your career at age 16-18, immediately after finishing school.

Apprentices split their time between work and study. They learn on-the-job, working alongside fellow apprentices and experienced pros, but also attend college or university to gain nationally recognised qualifications.

In the past, people thought apprenticeships were just for plumbers and electricians. Or associated with trade industries. Well, things have changed. 

Apprenticeships have evolved and are now available in a mad-range of different sectors like accountancy and civil engineering. You can even do a chocolatier, wig-maker and equine dentist apprenticeship these days.

Apprenticeships are now a real alternative to going to university. They’ll set you up for whatever career it is that you’re looking at. And stop you from getting into debt. But how do they work?

How do apprenticeships in Scotland work?

Apprentices work on a full-time basis and study towards qualifications on the side. Like a side hustle. These qualifications vary based on the level of the apprenticeship. The level of the scheme also affects the duration; more advanced schemes tend to be longer. 

The structure of your apprenticeship will vary too. Ultimately, it all depends on your employer.

All apprentices, however, spend the majority of their time at work, in the office, at home (or both) doing real work while receiving on-the-job training. When they are not at work, the apprentice will be studying at college or an external training facility. 

It’s an 80/20 split between work and study. An apprentice will spend four days of their week at work, with one day off for college. Or, they’ll have a number of consecutive weeks at work, with an extended period off for studying. 

All candidates are paid a wage for both work and study periods too. It’s a Scottish fairytale.

‘RateMyApprenticeship is a great One-Stop-Shop for learning about available apprenticeships, the favourite employers in that space, the favourite apprenticeships available and even a wide range of currently available postings’


How many types of apprenticeships are there in Scotland?

There are three different types of apprenticeships in Scotland – foundation, modern and graduate. Each type is designed for students at different stages of their development.

Let’s break it down:

Foundation Apprenticeships

Foundation apprenticeships are designed to give you a taste of a career while you’re at school.

If you’re studying towards your Highers or Nationals 5, you can complete a foundation apprenticeship alongside your studies. It fits in around your other subjects.

You’ll have one or two days off during the week to work with an employer in your chosen field. On other occasions your time off will be spent attending college.

After 1-2 years, you’ll finish your apprenticeship with work experience and extra qualifications that are equivalent to two Scottish Highers.

There are currently foundation apprenticeships available in the following subject areas:

  • Accountancy
  • Business Skills
  • Civil Engineering
  • Creative & Digital Media
  • Engineering
  • Financial Studies
  • Food & Drink Technologies
  • Hardware & System Support
  • Scientific Technologies
  • Social Services, Children & Young People
  • Social Services & Healthcare
  • Software Development.

Want to find out more about foundation apprenticeships in Scotland? Watch this video.

Modern Apprenticeships

Modern apprenticeships are programmes that combine work and study. They allow 16 to 24 year olds like you to work for an employer while studying towards industry-recognised qualifications at college.

There’s a wide range of qualifications on offer between SCQF 5, which is equivalent to National 5s, all the way up to SCQF 11, which is equivalent to a degree.

To qualify for a modern apprenticeship you must have reached the Scottish statutory minimum school leaving age. That’s aged 16 for most people. 

You also have to be:

  • Living in Scotland
  • Not in full-time education

Apprenticeship levels

There are four different levels of modern apprenticeship:

  • Modern apprenticeships at SCQF 5 (SVQ 2)
  • Modern apprenticeships at SCQF 6/7 (SVQ 3)  
  • Technical apprenticeships at SCQF 8/9 (SVQ 4)
  • Professional apprenticeships at SCQF 10 (SVQ 5).

Once you complete your modern apprenticeship, you can progress up the ladder and work towards higher qualifications.

For example, a modern apprentice at SCQF 6/7 (equivalent to Highers) can complete a graduate apprenticeship. By staying on the apprenticeship path, you could work towards a Masters degree.

Graduate Apprenticeships

Thinking about going to university? That’s fantastic. Getting a degree is a hoot. But did you know, you can get a degree without taking the traditional university path?

Graduate apprentices work full-time, and study towards a degree on the side. They have the option of working towards a Bachelors or even a Masters degree.

It’s an alternative to the well-trodden path of going to university after finishing your Highers or Advanced Highers. A path that will give you 3-6 years of professional work experience.

Graduate apprenticeships have been developed through a partnership between the higher/further education sector and industry. 

Each scheme is designed around the needs of industry. It’s a plan to help fill skills gaps in Scotland and inspire young people like you with a new route into key industries.

Can you apply?

  • You must be aged 16 or above, but some require you to be 18 or above
  • Be a Scottish resident
  • Have the right to live and work in Scotland.

What’s available?

  • Accounting
  • Business Management (including Financial Services)
  • Civil Engineering
  • Construction & the Built Environment
  • Cyber Security
  • Data Science
  • Early Learning & Childcare
  • Engineering: Design & Manufacture
  • Engineering: Instrumentation, Measurement & Control
  • IT: Management for Business
  • IT: Software Development.

Which universities offer Graduate Apprenticeships?

  • University of the Highlands and Islands
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Robert Gordon University
  • Glasgow Kelvin College
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • University of the West of Scotland
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Strathclyde.

‘You can set up custom emails and notifications regarding what you want, RateMyApprenticeship does all the work for you, all you need to do is receive the email about the apprenticeship and apply’.


How much will you get paid?

One of the great things about apprenticeships is the pay. We’re here to spill the beans in fact that Glasgow was crowned 6th for highest paying apprenticeship locations.

If you choose to do an apprenticeship, you’ll receive a full salary, just like you would for a regular job. Apprentices are paid for the duration of their scheme, and get a minimum of 20 days of paid holiday each year.

As an apprentice, you’ll be paid for:

  • Your normal working hours
  • Any training that’s included in your programme
  • Extra courses you might have to take, for example maths and english.

Your salary depends on your employer and level. But all apprentices receive the National Minimum Wage. Please see the table below.

23 +21 – 2218 – 20Under 18Apprentice
April 2023 (current rate)£10.42£10.18£7.49£5.28£5.28

The 5 real benefits of doing an apprenticeship

More and more young people are choosing to do apprenticeships in Scotland.

That’s because doing an apprenticeship has real benefits.

Here are FIVE of them:

#1   When you complete an apprenticeship, you’ll gain impressive qualifications. Those qualifications are broken down above, and range from SCQF 2-11, which are equivalent to 5 GCSEs, all the way up to a Masters degree.

#2   Apprentices get to work alongside experienced professionals. No matter if you’re a foundation, modern or graduate apprentice, you’ll be working alongside people who have worked in your chosen field for a number of years. Not only will it be a wonder for your development, but it will give you an idea of where you could be five or ten years in the future.

#3   Apprentices earn while they learn. Earning pennies and pounds is the first step towards independence. And this is a chance to do just that. Finish school. Jump straight into your career. Earn. Learn. Plan victory speech.

#4   Doing an apprenticeship is a really positive first step on the career ladder. The combination of practical work experience, qualifications and specialist training will set you up for a career, straight after finishing school.

#5   You aren’t guaranteed a job at the end of the programme, but 85% stay with their employer after their apprenticeship. Even if you don’t stay on, you’ll be highly employable. Companies will be fighting over you like you’re the last piece of garlic bread.

How to apply?

Applying for an apprenticeship is similar to applying for a regular job. You’ll fill out an application form, and need to send in a CV and cover letter.

The application processes for apprenticeships do vary from apprenticeship to apprenticeship. It depends on the type of scheme you’re applying for, and the employer too.

When to apply

The majority of applications open in January or February. This is for programmes that begin in September. Some larger companies begin advertising even earlier.

Smaller businesses often begin advertising their roles only a month or two before the scheme starts. That means there will be a lot of foundation and modern apprenticeships going live in March and April in the lead up to September.

If you want to discover more about apprenticeships in Scotland, visit apprenticeships.scot or skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk.

And don’t forget to check out Scottish Apprenticeship Week!

It’s basically a week-long celebration of apprenticeships. There are events and workshops up and down the country, hosted by some of the BEST apprenticeship employers in Scotland. It’s all aimed at current apprentices, and young people considering the apprenticeship path.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2023 is sponsored by Accenture, a leading global professional services company helping over 9,000 clients across key areas including strategy & consulting and technology.