Scottish Apprenticeship Week: What is an apprenticeship?

Happy Scottish Apprenticeship Week (4 – 8 March)! This week we’re talking all things, you guessed it, apprenticeships. But, what is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships mean you can learn on the job, gaining skills in the career you want, all whilst getting paid. What more could you want?

It’s almost time to think about what subjects you’ll take next year or what you want to do when you leave school. The prospect is scary, but there’s plenty of options; and an apprenticeship could be the perfect one for you.


An apprenticeship is a period of training which teaches you the skillset you need for a particular career. This training is usually paid and can last between one and four years depending on the type of apprenticeship you are on.


Foundation apprenticeships (FA) give you workplace experience before you even leave school. If you’re going in to S5 or S6 you can choose to complete a FA as one of your subject choices alongside Highers and National 5s.

On a FA you will work towards industry qualifications while gaining experience and skills. Instead of taking an exam at the end of the year you will have practical tests throughout the year that will make up your final mark.

As you won’t be employed by the company where you complete a FA you won’t be paid, but it will enable you to complete some aspects of the next level of apprenticeship: modern apprenticeships.

Instead of taking an exam at the end of the year you will have practical tests throughout the year


Modern apprenticeships (MA) are often considered an equivalent to university or college and there are more than 80 types of MA. You will get paid while you complete this type of apprenticeship and gain an SQA qualification.

Unlike a FA, being on a MA is fulltime.

You will learn the skills you need on the job along with qualities that employers are looking for, such as timekeeping and taking responsibility for your work.

MAs are designed by industry boards so that you are gaining skills relevant to the job you want. In order to start


If you aren’t sure whether you want to go to college, uni or head out in to the world of work, then a graduate apprenticeship (GA) could be the perfect option. You can apply for most GAs if you are 16 or over.

On a GA most of your time will be spent learning on the job, but you will also attend a university or college part-time as you work towards a degree. Instead of spending years in full-time study wondering how you’ll put what you’ve learned into practice, you’ll get to do it straight away.

Like an MA you will get paid while you learn. The work you do counts towards gaining your qualification so you could gain a degree faster than attending university or college full-time.

No matter what career you want to pursue there is an apprenticeship that will allow you to learn the relevant skills on the job.

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