A unique partnership between an Edinburgh secondary school, and a number of local employers from across the city has received special recognition from the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
The Pre-Apprenticeship Programme delivered by staff at Craigroyston Community High School in the north of Edinburgh sees a number of the school’s senior pupils embark upon year-long structured work experience placements with local businesses. While on placements for two afternoons a week, the pupils continue to study for Highers, Nationals, and other awards at school, but combine this with working towards industry recognised vocational qualifications. And once they have successfully completed their placements, the pupils go on to a guaranteed full-time Modern Apprenticeship with their prospective employer.
The scheme was first introduced in 2015, following a meeting between the school’s head teacher, Steve Ross, and Robert Allan, director of HR at Apex Hotels. In its first year, nine pupils went down the pre-apprenticeship route, taking up roles in the hospitality sector with Apex Hotels, Novotel, and IBIS, and with defence engineering firm, Leonardo. This year more employers, including Charlie Miller Hairdressing, and Robertson Construction have encouraged a fourfold increase in uptake, as 36 pupils began new placements.
The stay-on rate for senior pupils at Craigroyston has increased dramatically as a result of the scheme. The number of pupils now staying on from S4 to S5 has grown from 50% in 2014/15 to 90% in 2016/17, while the S6 intake has doubled over the same period.
The scheme has been so successful it was highly commended at the SQA Star Awards, lifting a trophy for Promoting Inclusion.
Speaking about his ambitions for the pupils, Craigroyston head teacher Steve Ross, said: “I want to encourage every pupil in the school to stay on until the end of sixth year, so when they leave they do so with a portfolio of qualifications, experiences, skills, and a knowledge of the job market that will help them find a positive destination.”
Pre-Apprenticeship co-ordinator Elaine Gray, head of home economics at the school, worked closely with Danielle Ramsay, Group Recruitment Manager at Apex Hotels, to design the content of the programme. Elaine said that the success of the scheme is down to the close relationship fostered between the school, and the employers. The model they developed has since been rolled out to all the participating employers.
Elaine added: “The partnership between the school and the employer is really important. We have to set the right expectations for the pre-apprentices and help them understand what their employers expect from them. This might include helping them with things like time management, and attendance, but equally the employers must have realistic expectations of the pupils. However, once we get them through the door, and we can see that relationship begin, we can see the pupils start to flourish as their confidence grows and they begin to realise what they are capable of.”
Danielle Ramsay said: “We work with the pupils to help them take the first steps in the work place, supporting them with their applications, and helping them with their interviews. The benefit in the long term for us as an employer is we get to invest in the pre-apprentices for a year and introduce them to the way we work. That means that when they start their Modern Apprenticeship, they are familiar with the company, our culture, and what we expect from them, meaning they are more likely to succeed.”
Speaking about the value of the pre-apprenticeship programme, Theresa McGowan, SQA regional manager for Edinburgh, said: “The approach the team at Craigroyston has taken was tailored specifically for the needs of their pupils, and their local community, but it is a model that could be replicated elsewhere. The positive relationships between the school and employers across the city are delivering real results for the pupils, and they are really benefitting from the opportunity to complete the additional work-experience and vocational qualifications.”
For more information about how SQA supports Modern Apprenticeships and other training opportunities, visit www.sqa.org.uk/appenticeships.