28 November 2022

Aberdeenshire's schools helping to address skills shortages

For the first time since the Covid pandemic Aberdeenshire Council was able to bring together all S5 and S6 Foundation Apprentices (FAs) for a professional development day as part of their school curriculum. 

More than 400 FAs attended Maryculter House Hotel in Aberdeen over three days to develop their professional skills and knowledge in their chosen specialisms.

These ranged from business to healthcare, IT to engineering and food and drink to early years, with young people taking part in practical sessions, helping cement their knowledge and skills.

Aberdeenshire’s Head of Education Vincent Docherty said: “The days were a great success, bringing together the apprentices from across Aberdeenshire. 

“Future employees from nine different sectors met with employers, universities and other partners such as Skills Development Scotland. This enriched the day for the FAs and gave them the opportunity to reflect on their possible next steps and future careers.”

Aberdeenshire Council academies have encouraged S4-6 pupils to take Foundation Apprenticeships as part of their qualifications. 

These dovetail with the employment needs in the key sectors both locally and nationally across Scotland.

Health and Social Care Apprentice from Portlethen Academy Melissa Stewart said: “I enjoyed learning about the wide variety of careers and gaining first-hand experience from people currently working in the sector, as well as learning about how they got there and what the industry is about, as well as where it is going. This gave me a better understanding of what to do to develop my skills.”

Another Portlethen Academy Apprentice Emma Heslop added: “It was great having interactive workshops and learning about different pathways after leaving school - yes college and university, but also all the other work based options we have such as modern and graduate apprenticeships.”

Aberdeenshire Council became a lead provider of Foundation Apprenticeships and the qualifications are now embedded in the school curriculum. This has seen an increase from around 30 taking up the opportunity in 2018 to well over 800 currently.

Vice Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee Cllr Anne Simpson said: “The qualification has proved so popular because they are at the same level as a Higher, but with the unique benefit of providing meaningful work placements alongside.

“Work-based learning helps give pupils the skills and experience they need to reach their potential and secure the skills they need for future careers.

“FAs are a fantastic opportunity for our young people and we would encourage all employers to get involved. Hosting a FA gives employers the chance to get fresh talent straight into their workforce.”

Employers of all sectors and sizes support Foundation Apprenticeships across Aberdeenshire. 

Training and Development Manager at Thistle Seafoods in Peterhead Brian Artingstoll said: “The apprentices are a credit not only to themselves but to the school as well. Their conduct has been exemplary, and it has been a pleasure to deal with them.

“The feedback I have received from the various heads of departments has been fantastic. They have certainly left a positive impression with everyone, and our CEO wants to host more apprentices in the future.”

Aberdeenshire’s Head of Education Vincent Docherty added: “Our Foundation Apprenticeship programme is one of the most successful in the country, though our success didn’t happen overnight - it’s a result of hard work and investment, but it’s worth it.

“Students who do an FA with Aberdeenshire have a huge increase in their attainment – up 42% on those students who don’t. This leads to an increase in positive destinations for our young people. 

“Last summer, 100% of our apprentices achieved a positive destination, meaning our students have enhanced career pathways and get a head-start in their career.”

Should any employer be interested in the Foundation Apprenticeship programme please contact Aberdeenshire’s FA Team at