Modern Apprenticeships are great!

 Stuart Millar is Director of Education Contracts and Business Development at Ayrshire College, where he leads the college’s work on apprenticeships. In this article, Stuart offers advice to young people (and their parents) wanting to know more about Modern Apprenticeships.

Modern Apprenticeships are great! It’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week and you’ll hear a lot of positive statements like this. But, for some young people making career choices – and their parents – perhaps the question is not just how good are they, but what are they?

When I left school in the 1990s, there was a big push to get more and more young people to go to university. At that time, apprenticeships were seen as a second class option. Now, it is my generation’s children who are making career and education choices, but many young people and their parents know very little about apprenticeships.

I’m fortunate that my job at the college allows me to keep in touch with the range of apprenticeship options that are out there, so hopefully I can help answer a few of the questions you may have.

What is a Modern Apprenticeship?

Well, it’s a job – you need to be in a job to be a Modern Apprentice – a real job that you get paid for. While you’re earning, you’ll also be learning on the job and working towards a qualification.

What kinds of apprenticeships are there?

Since the 1990s when I left school, there are now many more opportunities to get an apprenticeship. In Scotland, the number of apprentices recruited each year will increase from 25,000 to 30,000 in 2020, and more and more companies are recruiting. There are over 80 different types of apprenticeship, so whatever your career choice there is likely to be an apprenticeship in that field. 

What does an apprenticeship cost?

The training and education doesn’t cost you anything. All those fees are covered by Skills Development Scotland. You’ll be earning a wage, but you’ll have to pay travel costs to and from work and college.

Do you go to college?

It depends what apprenticeship you do. For example, in an engineering apprenticeship you will work towards a range of qualifications. Some of these will be delivered at your work, and some will be delivered in the college on day or block release. 

Other apprenticeships like hairdressing or professional cookery could be delivered solely at your workplace. All apprenticeships will have at least one industry recognised qualification, and your skills in IT, literacy, numeracy, working with others and problem solving will be assessed to ensure they meet a minimum standard. 

How long do apprenticeships last?

Again, it depends what apprenticeship you choose. Some apprenticeships can be completed in a year, while an engineering or construction apprenticeship will last up to 4 years. 

How do I get an apprenticeship?

Check the job pages of the local newspaper or recruitment websites, send your CV off to local companies, ask a teacher or careers officer, or ask around with people you know. Some local companies often recruit apprentices from courses at the college, so check our website Ayrshire College website Job Zone. Another useful website is Skills Development Scotland.

What happens after I finish an apprenticeship?

All going according to plan, at the end of your apprenticeship you’ll be skilled in your chosen field, you’ll have your qualification and your apprenticeship certificate, and you’ll have money in the bank instead of a student loan to pay off. 

92% of apprentices who achieve their qualification will stay in work afterwards. Most companies will keep employing their apprentice after they have qualified but, even if they don’t, you’ll have the skills, qualifications and experience to make you very employable. As a fully qualified employee you will no longer be an apprentice, so there’s the possibility of a pay rise too!

So, is an apprenticeship a better option than a college or university course?

Not necessarily, just think of it as a valid alternative. A full-time college or university course is a great option for many people, but not for everyone. 

Apprenticeships are no longer the second class option they were when I was young, and there are more and more opportunities out there. So, when it comes to the time to make career or subject choices, just remember what I said at the start – Modern Apprenticeships are great!


For more information on Modern Apprenticeships supported by Ayrshire College, get in touch with us by email at

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