Scotland: Foundation Apprenticeships Group Award (SCQF level 6)

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Foundation Apprenticeships Group Award (SCQF level 6) are available in:

  • Accountancy
  • Business Skills
  • Civil Engineering
  • Creative and Digital Media
  • Financial Services
  • Food and Drink Technology
  • ICT Hardware
  • ICT Software
  • Scientific Technologies
  • Social Services (Children and Young People)
  • Social Services (Healthcare)
  • Software Development plus in addition
  • Engineering - aeronautical, electrical, electronic, systems, fabrication and welding, manufacturing, measurement and control, mechanical (SVQ units are at SCQF level 5 but NC units are at level 6. Group Award issued at SCQF level 6)



Purpose of framework/standard

One of the key recommendations of Sir Ian Wood’s review on Developing the Young Workforce was to “develop better connectivity and co-operation between education and the world of work to ensure young people at all levels of education understand the expectations of employers, and that employers are properly engaged” (Scottish Government response to “Developing the Young Workforce”; 2015). One of the ways this is being achieved is through the development of Foundation Apprenticeships.

The qualification comprises SVQ units and National Progression or National Certificate units. Foundation Apprenticeships are not apprenticeships in the traditional sense and the young people who undertake them are not in employment.

All aspects of the Foundation Apprenticeships are done at school in partnership with colleges. There is no part of the Foundation Apprenticeship that is not part of the qualification and the SVQ elements are integrated throughout the programme with the national units. The size of the qualification represents all of the notional learning hours required for completion and learners will be allocated placements to help them achieve the SVQ units. Foundation Apprenticeships allow pupils to gain vocational qualifications that combine sector specific skills alongside the knowledge that underpins these skills in a workplace setting while still at school.

By combining both elements in a Group Award structure, SDS is responding to the ambition of ‘Developing the Young Workforce’ while ensuring robust, quality assured qualifications for pupils in Scotland. The frameworks are offered in all Scottish local Authorities with the ambition being that by 2020 there will be 20000 pupils doing Foundation Apprenticeships.

Foundation Apprenticeships are at SCQF level 6. This signals the importance of the programme in providing a comparable vocational pathway for pupils at a level consistent with a Scottish Higher. Foundation Apprenticeships range in size from 48 to 65 SCQF credits (480 to 650 notional learning hours – by comparison a Scottish Higher is 24 SCQF credits or 240 notional learning hours).

Each Foundation Apprenticeship is credit rated and certificated by SQA as a Group Award.

How apprenticeships prepare learners for progression to higher level study

Learners are prepared for progression to higher level study firstly by having completed a qualification which has a minimum of 48 credits (480 notional learning hours) and is credit rated at SCQF level 6.  In addition, the Foundation Apprenticeship will give the learner a range of, job and core skills to enable them to study at a higher level. This includes autonomy, self-reliance, problem solving, confidence and team working.

Feedback from HE

The Foundation Apprenticeship programme started in September 2016, therefore feedback from HE on entrants to HE who have completed the Foundation Apprenticeship is not yet available. Evidence from a recent procurement exercise for admission to Graduate Level apprenticeships in Scotland is that all universities (highlighted as ** in section ‘Additional information for HE’) have accepted Foundation Apprenticeships for entry to a Graduate Programme.

Additionally, Skills Development Scotland has spoken with all the universities listed in that section about admissions to general programmes. Feedback from Heriot Watt is that they will use the Foundation Apprenticeship as providing added value in areas where there are high volume applications. Other universities indicate they will operate similarly where there is a direct link between a faculty and a particular Foundation Apprenticeship (e.g. in the field of Teacher Education where there is a requirement for individuals to have experience of working with children, universities consider the placement element of ‘Social Services (Children and Young People)’ to add value to the admission profile).

Combined competence and knowledge-based qualification

A Foundation Apprenticeship is a group award that combines both knowledge and competence requirements and is certificated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

To be defined as a Foundation Apprenticeship a programme must:

  • Deliver the full group award comprising the national units and SVQ units.
  • Deliver the necessary knowledge for the industry it relates to, based on defined national occupational standards at a level of complexity (National Occupational Standard) defined in the existing Modern Apprenticeship Framework for the sector.
  • Support skills and knowledge development by using existing qualifications or a composite of units directly derived from and mapped to national occupational standards for the sector. This will have been agreed by the appropriate sector skills council or standards setting body.
  • Provide real work experience, as part of the overall group award for a period that allows participants to demonstrate competence in an industry appropriate workplace and which fully meets the requirements of the assessment strategy for the SVQ.

Foundation Apprenticeships have been constructed using existing or newly developed national units and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQ). The Foundation Apprenticeship Group Awards comprise National Progression Award (NPA) or equivalent SCQF level 6 units and SVQ, SCQF level 6 units which comprise a partial SVQ. The National units are intended to provide the knowledge based qualification and the SVQ units additional applied knowledge and competence.

Additional requirements of apprenticeship

There are no additional requirements of the apprenticeship, but some subjects must be done as complementary subjects, e.g. in the Engineering and Technology Industries where Higher maths is required alongside the Foundation Apprenticeship. Other requirements are in line with SVQ assessment strategies which stipulate embedded core skills of communication, numeracy, problem solving, working with others and IT.

All Foundation Apprenticeships must meet the SCQF requirements of:

  • knowledge and understanding (mainly subject based);
  • practice (applied knowledge and understanding);
  • generic cognitive skills (e.g. evaluation, critical analysis);
  • communication, numeracy and IT skills; and
  • autonomy, accountability and working with others.

Estimated duration of apprenticeship

The notional time taken to complete a Foundation Apprenticeship ranges from 480 and 650 notional hours, dependant on the choice of programme. Foundation Apprenticeship will normally be completed over two academic years namely in the fifth and sixth year of school (Senior Phase in Scotland). The suggested time allocation for the delivery of the Foundation Apprenticeship is seven hours per week in the first year and ten hours per week in the second but this will vary by programme and delivery partner. What does not vary, however, are the notional learning hours allocated to it. In some cases the programme will be delivered over one year. Where this happens the same number of notional learning hours is required to achieve the award. As the assessment of competence is a required component of the qualification, this time includes placement hours. As indicated earlier these learners are not in work so no ‘in work’ hours should be discounted in the calculation.

Designed to support progression

Foundation Apprenticeships are designed to support young people

  • to progress from a school into a related job, or
  • to complete a Modern Apprenticeship, or
  • to continue on to further or higher education.

Additional information for HE

As of September 2017 the following universities are accepting Foundation Apprenticeships for admissions to any programmes (*except for law, medicine, veterinary medicine at present). Those with ** accept Foundation Apprenticeships plus any necessary associated Highers as entry to their Graduate Level apprenticeship programmes (e.g. for teacher education Higher English, for engineering/IT Higher maths/physics)

  • University of Glasgow*(plus**)
  • University of Edinburgh*
  • Heriot Watt University**
  • Robert Gordon University**
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of Dundee**
  • University of Stirling**
  • University of Highlands and Islands**
  • Edinburgh Napier University**
  • Abertay University**
  • Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
  • Glasgow Caledonian University**

Different universities are providing a different Insight tariff for Foundation Apprenticeships: some are accepting it as a minimum of one Higher at varying levels depending on the offer to the individual until the programme is better established – pending the Scottish Government review of Insight tariff – while others are accepting it as two Highers.

Contact details

Frances Scott

Innovation Manager

0300 133332


Skills Development Scotland Leasachadh Sgilean na h-Alba

Lomond House, 9 George Square, Glasgow, G2 1DY