All in for apprenticeships!

The first senior pupils from North East schools have completed three months of the new Foundation Apprenticeships (FAs) offered at North East Scotland College (NESCol). NESCol is running FAs in Children and Young People; Engineering and Health and Social Care.

A group of Foundation Apprentices

In 2014, the Scottish Government recognised the need to provide a balance of academic and vocational learning in the senior phase of secondary school. FAs help to meet this need, providing pupils with an industry-recognised qualification at the same level as a Higher, and work experience in their chosen sector.

Shelley Mackenzie, Schools Liaison Manager comments, “For a number of years North East Scotland College has partnered with Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils to offer a range of vocational courses to pupils as part of their senior school timetable. Foundation Apprenticeships fit well with this activity as they offer a blended learning experience allowing pupils to stay at school to take school based subjects whilst also accessing a College education alongside extended Work Experience opportunities.  This blended Senior Phase experience will really equip pupils with both the knowledge and skills they need for entering the work place.

In Academic Year 17-18 there will be Foundation Apprenticeships in Creative and Digital Media, ICT Hardware, Laboratory Science and Business Skills, in addition to those being offered this year.”

Foundation Apprenticeships in Mechanical Engineering

Jake Cox, aged 16, is in the fifth year at St Machar Academy and he is in week 12 of his Foundation Apprenticeship in Mechanical Engineering with NESCol, located at Fraserburgh Campus. Jake says, “The Foundation Apprenticeship was recommended to me by my guidance teacher who thought it would be perfect for me. And she was right. I have a huge interest in engineering and I have always loved figuring things out - If things get broken at home I am always the one that everyone comes to.”

Jake is currently studying Highers in Maths, Computing, Physical Education and National 5 Physics. He travels each Wednesday to the College from Aberdeen to Fraserburgh – getting up at six in the morning to catch the bus at seven.

“The facilities here are amazing - much better than at school”, he continues. “I’ve enjoyed everything so far and to be honest is so much better than I thought it would be. We’ve covered CAD, Dynamics and Statics in the classroom and we’re now based in the workshop. I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet when I leave school but I know it will be engineering related and it will involve a lot of practical.”

Jake plans to study for his Higher Physics in his final year at school and is already researching what that will entail at home. He will complete his Foundation Apprenticeship over a two year period which is equivalent to that of a Higher. The award consists of a National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering at SCQF Level 6 and units within the Performing Engineering Operations Level 2 course. Alongside these qualifications Jake will also undertake around 300 hours of work-related experience during the second year. Enrolled alongside Jake are ten other fifth year pupils from Meldrum, Mintlaw and Peterhead Academies.

The two female students in the class are Cayleigh Will and Alanna Elrick who both completed the NESCol Schools Links course, Skills for Work – Energy, at Mintlaw Academy. This is an all-female course (sponsored by Shell), leading to a National 5 qualification, which is designed to encourage more girls – aged 14 to 17 - to consider careers in the engineering and energy sector.

“The energy course was great”, says Alanna. “We got to go out on lots of industry visits and trips. A highlight was Offshore Europe and seeing all the companies together which I thought was amazing.”

Alanna is studying Highers in Maths, Graphics and National 5 Physics in addition to her Foundation Apprenticeship. She continues, “I came along to the open evening last year and thought that the new Foundation Apprenticeship looked interesting. Although I haven’t definitely decided yet I may be interested in an apprenticeship when I leave school. ”

Cayleigh is studying for her Highers in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and National 5 Engineering. She comments, “I imagined that a lot of the course would be workshop based but there is more theory than I thought – but I’m managing fine. I can see how what we learn in the classroom fits into the workshop. I’m looking forward to the work experience as well.” 

Social Services and Healthcare

Taking on a foundation apprenticeship at school can give young people an invaluable insight into their chosen career area. Caitlin Mackay, 16, a pupil at Meldrum Academy, explained why she decided to sign up for an FA in Social Services and Healthcare:

“I know I want to be a social worker, so the opportunity to gain some experience in the industry before I leave school seemed like a good idea to me and my parents. I’m really enjoying studying in College so far, and I’m really looking forward to the work placement in the second year.”