Developing the Young Workforce: annual report 2016-2017

The third annual report on Scotland's youth employment strategy, setting out progress in the academic year 2016 to 2017

Chapter 3: Apprenticeships

Progress in Apprenticeships

  • In 16/17, there were 26,262 MA starts, an increase on 2015/16 levels (25,818) and exceeding the annual target of 26,000 starts.
  • Employers, universities and colleges, SDS with partners, have collaborated and completed the development of 11 frameworks for delivery of graduate level opportunities throughout 2017.

25.4% of MA starts reside in the 20% most deprived areas of Scotland.

(This activity delivers on the Developing the Young Workforce Recommendations 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 20, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 38.)


From the outset of the programme, we have been clear that apprenticeships need to work for employers and their leadership is vital to collectively shaping how the programme better meets their needs as well as providing invaluable employment opportunities for our young people. We continue to promote our dedicated website, hosted by SDS - The site presents live apprenticeship vacancies and allows employers to upload vacancies free of charge, as well as being a dedicated resource of information to those seeking to find out more information regarding apprenticeships.


Key themes and milestones for apprenticeships

Achieving our ambitions for the young workforce requires a focus on:

  • Expansion of MA opportunities to 30,000 by 2020/21;
  • Development of Foundation Apprenticeships in schools;
  • Development of further MA opportunities to graduate level;
  • Focus on STEM MAs and development of higher level apprenticeships;
  • SAAB was established in 2016 to give employers and industry a leading role in apprenticeships in Scotland; enabling better alignment of industry demand with apprenticeship design and development; and
  • Clearer pathways into apprenticeships for those not in work or those from previously under-represented groups.

Modern Apprenticeships ( MAs)

  • There were 26,262 MA starts in 2016/17. This is an increase on 2015/16 levels (25,818) and also exceeds the annual target of 26,000 starts. In keeping with the Scottish Government’s commitment to increase MA starts to 30,000 by 2020. The target for 2017-18 is 27,000 Modern Apprenticeships starts;
  • In 2016/17, 76% of starts were aged 16-24, a decrease of 3.9 percentage point compared to last year;
  • The majority (66%) of starts were in higher level apprenticeships Level 3 or above, an increase of 0.8 percentage points on last year;
  • 25.4% of MA starts reside in the 20% most deprived areas of Scotland; and
  • 20,404 individuals achieved their Modern Apprenticeship – an achievement rate of 78% compared to 76% last year.

Uptake in STEM Frameworks

  • 37% of all MA starts in 2016/17 were in STEM frameworks (+ 2.3 % equivalent to + 761 starts from 2015/16 or + 8.6%).
  • 70% of STEM framework starts in 2016/17 were aged 16-24, -8.3 % lower than last year, with an equivalent increase in starts aged 25+ (+8.3 % to 30% in 2016/17).
  • 82% of STEM framework starts were at level 3 or above (-2.8 % on last year), compared to 56% for non- STEM frameworks (+1.8 % on last year).

In this year, SDS has developed apprenticeship opportunities at graduate level as a way for individuals to develop the necessary knowledge, skills and competence required by Scottish industries. By building on the success of SDS’s existing Foundation and Modern Apprenticeship programmes, Graduate Level Apprenticeships give individuals an opportunity to be in paid employment, while gaining qualifications from Dip HE up to Masters level ( SCQF levels 8 – 11).

As they have been developed with employers, they also ensure that learners gain the necessary knowledge and skills required for their chosen area of work.

From September, there were 296 MAs at graduate level with registrations across nine delivery partners in the following four frameworks:

  • IT: Software Development SCQF level 10;
  • IT: Management for Business SCQF level 10;
  • Engineering: Design & Manufacture SCQF level 10; and
  • Civil Engineering SCQF level 8.

Contracting for 2018 is currently underway and we expect to see the number of opportunities expand across both new and existing delivery partners. These places will be available across the four current frameworks and seven new ones listed below:

  • Construction and the Built Environment SCQF level 10;
  • Civil Engineering SCQF level 10;
  • Engineering: Instrumentation, Measurement and Control SCQF level 10;
  • Business Management: Financial Services SCQF level 10;
  • IT: Cyber Security SCQF level 10;
  • IT: Cyber Security SCQF level 11; and
  • Business Management SCQF level 10 (draft)

SDS will continue to develop their strategy for increasing the number of graduate level opportunities to help understand how the programme can be scaled to meet employer demand.


A challenge which remains through the expansion of Modern Apprenticeships is ensuring we achieve the right type of employer involvement.

Part of DYW’s rresponse to this lies in SDS’s establishment of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board which oversees the development of Apprenticeships in Scotland. Over this year, we see further evidence over the year of employer support in the expansion of Modern Apprenticeships and we note that 25,818 MA opportunities were provided in 2015/16, which exceeded the Scottish Government’s expansion target for that year.

Further progress has been made to develop pathways into Modern Apprenticeships for young people while they are still at school through the expansion of Foundation Apprenticeships. By increasing the range of Foundation Apprenticeships available - aligned to future industry demand and career prospects - we are providing more opportunities to a greater number of pupils; supporting parity of esteem between work based and academic learning and bringing industry and education closer together.

To engage all of our young people, the challenge, for schools, colleges and SDS remains, therefore, to ensure that there continues to be good guidance and good support in place along with the right levels of pastoral care to maximise the opportunity afforded by the new qualifications..

As we continue to develop our apprenticeship programme, we are mindful of the potential impact of the Apprenticeship Levy. In April 2017, the UK Government introduced a new way of funding apprenticeships through the Apprenticeship Levy. Scotland received a per capita share as part of the block grant arrangements, largely replacing funds previously received. Whilst implementing training levies is a reserved matter for the UK Government, skills policy, including apprenticeships is devolved.

The Scottish Government has clearly articulated how all of this funding will be invested in skills, training and employability in line with our public consultation on the introduction of the Levy in Scotland. Therefore, we continue our commitment to grow, widen and enhance the apprenticeship offer in Scotland as a key part of the Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce ambitions. Early figures show no adverse impacts of the Levy on the uptake of new Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland, and we will continue to carefully monitor this over the coming year.

Next steps

The milestones set out below detail what this will involve over the lifetime of the programme.

During 2017- 2018, we will see:

  • On-going implementation of Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships to increase participation by under-represented groups; and
  • The target for 2017-18 is 27,000 Modern Apprenticeships starts whilst also growing the number of opportunities to graduate level.

During 2018 - 2019, we will see:

  • We will continue to grow and develop Modern and Foundation Apprenticeships.

During 2019 - 2020, we will see:

  • We will see ongoing growth of Modern Apprenticeships including opportunities at graduate level and 5,000 Foundation Apprenticeship opportunities.

During 2020 - 2021, we will see:

  • At least 30,000 new MA starts each year;
  • Activity fully embedded and expansion sustained.


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