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Swinney: Apprenticeships for school pupils 'important'

The Scottish government has renewed its ambition to deliver 5,000 foundation apprenticeships by the end of 2019

apprenticeships training schools vocational training scotland SDS foundation

The Scottish government has renewed its ambition to deliver 5,000 foundation apprenticeships by the end of 2019

The Scottish government’s target to create 5,000 foundation apprenticeships (FAs) is “one of its most important contributions to effectively embedding work-based learning” in the education and skills system, the education secretary has said.

In a letter to college principals, dated 30 January, education secretary John Swinney wrote: “Our ambition to create 5,000 FA opportunities is a significant attempt to open up learning and training experiences for young people in the senior phase.”

He explained the scheme’s success would “rely upon a ‘Team Scotland’ approach, with the welcome support of key national partners such as ADES, CoSLA and the Scottish Funding Council, underpinned by commitment, responsiveness and agility across each part of the system”.

This comes as a survey by Tes, carried out towards the end of last year, shows an increase in the number of foundation apprenticeships at almost all colleges in the survey – although the total remains well short the 5,000 target. Of the 11 large colleges which responded to the survey, nine saw an increase. The survey also shows a significant number of young people leaving the programme before the end of the two years.

Work-based learning

Mr Swinney announced the ambition to create 5,000 FA opportunities by the end of this year in March 2017. Foundation apprenticeships were introduced in 2014-15 and provide work-based learning opportunities for secondary school pupils in S4-S6, helping them to successfully transition from education to the world of work. In 2016-17, there had been 351 FA places.

In his letter to principals, Mr Swinney said: “You may have seen the recently launched Skills Development Scotland (SDS) marketing campaign, which promotes the benefits of foundation apprenticeships and coincides with the planning underway for academic year 2019-20. Encouragingly, initial data show FA opportunities emerging across the country and across FA frameworks.

“A second round of procurement was recently advertised by SDS, with the aim to address sectoral and geographic gaps identified after the initial round. I’m aware this coincides with many school pupils across Scotland selecting senior phase options for next academic year, and I, therefore, invite you to use this window of opportunity to maximise the availability of opportunities to our young people.”

He said in areas where there were signs of slower uptake, the Scottish government “welcomes requests for follow up meetings to identify the type and level of support that may be required”.

Recruitment and completion

Fife College started off with 27 FAs in 2016-18 – of which only 10 completed the programme. Its 2017-19 started off with 50, and it recruited 55 for 2018-20. The college “is currently recruiting for 2019-21 and anticipating a cohort of around 60”. 

Ayrshire recruited 36 FAs for 2017-19 – of which 28 remain on the course. For 2018-20, 52 students have been recruited.

Glasgow Clyde College has recruited 281 students for its 2018-20 FA programme – a significant increase on 2017-19, where it recruited 130 year 1 learners. Of the 125 still on the course by the end of that year, 60 per cent chose to progress into year 2, said the college. City of Glasgow College had a complete success rate for its 2017 FA cohort of 78 per cent, said the college. It enrolled 114 that year, and that number increased to 172 in 2018.

At Edinburgh College – 55 FAs were recruited in 2017, marginally more than the 51 recruited in 2018. West Lothian College increased the number of enrolments from 89 to 122 between 2017-18 and 2018-19, while Forth Valley College principal Ken Thomson, said interest in its range of FA courses was “growing rapidly”. New College Lanarkshire, meanwhile, started with 32 FAs in 2017, and enrolled 173 for 2018-19.

'Government's ambition'

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said it was “encouraging to see that more young people are choosing to undertake FAs as they provide access to a greater range of opportunities and jobs that they may not have considered otherwise”. “We acknowledge there are some challenges around sustainability and the parity of esteem of the qualification with Highers, but these can be overcome and colleges will continue to deliver FAs as they give young people an important advantage in attaining successful careers,” she added.

Skills Development Scotland director of critical skills, Diane Greenlees, said Skills Development Scotland (SDS) was “on course to meet the Scottish government’s ambition to make 5,000 new start Foundation Apprenticeship opportunities available in schools by the end of 2019”.

“Colleges, schools, local authorities, employers and partners such as Education Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council are working with SDS to deliver these opportunities for young people across Scotland. The funding model for Foundation Apprenticeships is based on milestones with the delivery partner providing evidence and information that these have been met. Through continuous improvement and feedback from colleges and learning providers, the contracting process for 2019-21 has been updated to provide a more streamlined funding model.”

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