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Apprentices

This advice applies to Scotland

What is an apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are a way to gain workplace experience while studying for qualifications. Apprenticeship schemes in Scotland are funded by the Scottish Government and administered by Skills Development Scotland.

Apprenticeships allow a learning provider, such as a college or university, to deliver the knowledge and develop the apprentice’s skills, while the employer provides practical workplace experience. Training can be classroom-based, in a workshop or in a workplace, depending on the subject and learning provider.

Types of apprenticeship available

In Scotland there are three levels of apprenticeship on offer from school level up to graduate level. 

Foundation apprenticeships

Foundation apprenticeships are available in the last 2 years of school and you can:

  • get workplace experience 
  • get qualifications accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • keep studying other school subjects alongside the apprenticeship
  • get the qualifications and work experience usually in 2 years and you are likely to spend one full time day a week in the workplace
  • find they help you with entry into further apprenticeships after leaving school.

Foundation apprenticeships offer unpaid work experience and you are not classed as an employee.

You can find out more about what is available and whether you can apply at foundation apprenticeships on the Skills Development Scotland website

Modern apprenticeships

Modern apprenticeships are available if you are not in full time education and they:

  • offer paid work in the workplace across a broad range of industries and sectors
  • are available to people aged between 16 and 24 years who are not in full time education (there can be exceptions for those over 24 years old)
  • help you get qualifications accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

You cannot apply for a modern apprenticeship if you are an overseas national or if there is a time limit on your stay in the UK, but you can apply if you are a refugee or asylum seeker.

You can find out more about what is available and whether you can apply at modern apprenticeships on the Skills Development Scotland website.

Graduate apprenticeships

Graduate apprenticeships allow you to study for a degree whilst working and earning. A graduate apprenticeship:

  • can follow on from foundation or modern apprenticeships 
  • can be applied for directly if you meet the entrance requirements
  • has no upper age limit but you must be at least 16 years old to apply
  • can be available if you already have a degree for instance if it's a career change or a higher level of qualification in the same subject.

To apply for a graduate apprenticeship you must be resident in Scotland and have a right to live and work in Scotland and the work premises of the apprenticeship must be in Scotland. 

You can find out more about what is available and whether you can apply at graduate apprenticeships on the Skills Development Scotland website.

Am I entitled to pay and the minimum wage

Under the National Minimum Wage a modern or graduate apprentice is entitled to the apprentice rate of the minimum wage if they are either:

  • under 19 years
  • aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship.

After that they’re entitled to the normal rate of minimum wage for their age. The UK Government website has the current national minimum wage and apprentices rates.

Foundation apprenticeships are unpaid.

What hours count towards getting paid

An apprenticeship combines work with on and off the job training. Apprentices are paid for all the time they are on the apprenticeship, including training time (except foundation apprenticeships). All these hours count towards the national minimum wage. If time spent studying, for example at college or at evening classes, is part of your apprenticeship, this counts as training time and counts towards the national minimum wage.

How long does an apprenticeship last

The length of an apprenticeship varies with the skills of the apprentice, the qualification and the industry sector. Details of your contract should be agreed at the start of your apprenticeship.

How much training is involved

A contract of apprenticeship is different from an ordinary employment contract because learning is the main focus with practical work the secondary focus. Your training may be classroom-based, in a workshop or in a workplace, depending on the subject and learning provider. The time you spend in training, whether at college or elsewhere should be considered part of your working week. 

If you need extra support to do the work, your employer should work with the training provider to support you. If you are not satisfied with your training you should speak to your employer or your training provider.

Do health and safety regulations apply to apprentices

The employer's health and safety obligations extend to apprentices. The statutory requirements controlling conditions in, for example, factories, offices or agricultural establishments are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive. You can find more information on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Can I transfer my apprenticeship to another employer

If an apprentice wants to move to another employer it will be up to the new employer to decide to take you on as an apprentice. You should talk to your training provider for support before moving.

What if my employer goes out of business

If an employer goes out of business, an apprentice has the same rights as any other employee. You can find out more if you are having problems getting paid

You should contact your training provider for information and support about transferring your apprenticeship. 

An employer interested in taking on an apprentice who has been made redundant may be able to get support from the Adopt an Apprentice scheme.

What happens if I am made redundant

In Scotland an apprentice can only be made redundant or dismissed in very limited circumstances, such as the employer going out of business. A downturn in trade is not usually enough to make an apprentice redundant. If you believe you have been made redundant unfairly you can read more about raising a claim for breach of contract at an employment tribunal.

If your employer has gone out of business you should speak to your training provider for information and support to help you find another job and look at transferring your apprenticeship. 

An employer interested in taking on an apprentice who has been made redundant may be able to get support from the Adopt an Apprentice scheme

An apprentice is entitled to the same payments as other employees. This means apprentices who have worked for the employer for less than 2 years don’t qualify for redundancy payments. 

What happens if I am dismissed

In Scotland an apprentice can only be dismissed in very limited circumstances. If you believe you have been dismissed unfairly you should speak to your training provider for information and support. You can also read more about raising a claim for breach of contract at an employment tribunal.

Can I leave my apprenticeship

If you are struggling with your apprenticeship you should speak to your training provider for support and advice. Your next steps may depend on your course and circumstances.

What happens when my apprenticeship ends

If you are given a job when the apprenticeship ends, the time you were an apprentice counts towards your period of continuous employment. This affects employment protections like unfair dismissal, redundancy and maternity rights. Whether or not the time spent as an apprentice counts towards things like holiday entitlement depends on the employment contract.

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