Apprenticeships frequently asked questions (Scotland)

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is when someone works towards a qualification on the job. They work with experienced colleagues on real projects while putting what they learn at a college or university straight into practice. Employers can develop existing staff or find and grow new talent. Apprenticeships create a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce. They can tackle possible skills gaps, boost productivity and help businesses stay competitive.  A formal apprenticeship in Scotland must be aligned to a Modern, Technical or Professional Apprenticeship Framework.

In Scotland, there are three types of apprenticeship:

  • Foundation Apprenticeships for pupils in their last 2 years of school (S5 and S6). They choose this qualification as part of their subject choices and get the chance to work with employers.
  • Modern Apprenticeships for anyone aged 16 or above. A Modern Apprentice is employed and works towards a qualification with a college or learning provider.
  • Graduate Apprenticeships for anyone aged 16 or above. A Graduate Apprentice is employed and works full time while gaining an Honours or Masters degree.

Whether or not a person can apply for Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships will also depend on their residency status and their right to work and stay in the UK.

Do I need to treat a Modern Apprentice differently to other staff?

No. To the employer, an apprentice is an employee and must be contracted and treated as such.

As a Modern Apprentice, am I entitled to holiday?

Yes, in line with your employer’s holiday policy. Modern Apprentices are subject to the same company policies and procedures as any other staff member, including benefits. And every worker in the UK is entitled to a minimum number of paid holidays. Find out more about holidays on the UK government website.

How long should a Modern Apprenticeship last?

It depends on the type and level of apprenticeship, the industry and how much experience you have in the role. Your Individual Training Plan will set out your expected completion date.

As an employer, do I have to employ an apprentice once they’ve completed their Modern Apprenticeship?

No, but employers are encouraged to create apprenticeships with the intention on keeping their apprentice(s) on once they complete.

This isn’t mandated but is deemed preferable.  It is advised that an employer’s intentions are made clear to the apprentice throughout so an apprentice can plan their progression accordingly.

Notifying an apprentice that they will not continue in their role only days or weeks before the apprenticeship ends is poor practice.

How old should a Modern Apprentice be?

If you’re aged 16 to 24 you can apply to become a Modern Apprentice. You might also need some qualifications. Usually that’s at least three National 4s, but it can vary from role to role.

If you’re aged 24+, you might still get a contribution to your training costs depending on what industry you’re in. This includes Modern Apprenticeships in creative and cultural skills.

What is the ‘apprenticeship levy’?

From May 2017, the apprenticeship levy is paid by all UK employers who have an annual wage bill of £3million or more. It is calculated at 0.5% of an employer’s annual wage bill over the £3million and it is deducted like a tax from monthly PAYE. Levy vouchers to pay for apprenticeship training apply only in England.

These reforms are for England only, what if my company employs people who are based outside of England in the UK Nations?

For organisations that pay the levy and that have staff based in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the relevant proportion of an employer’s levy payment will be issued to the respective devolved administration.

The respective administration decides how levy funds are used. For example, if an organisation that pays the levy has 75% of its staff based in England and 25% based in Scotland, then 25% of the value of the organisation’s levy payments will be paid to Scottish Government.

What’s the difference between an apprenticeship, an internship and work experience?

Apprenticeships are recognised formally by the Government.  Apprentices must be working to a published and approved Framework or Standard (which includes mandatory off-the-job training delivered by a training provider).

Apprentices by law must have a contract of employment and be paid the appropriate minimum wage rate.

Internships are time limited work opportunities which must be paid (exceptions apply). There is no formal training or accreditation attached to an internship like there is with an apprenticeship. We have separate guidance on what constitutes an appropriate internship opportunity.

Work experience describes short opportunities (usually no longer than two weeks) that allow somebody to observe the work of an organisation and gain some basic experience/understanding of a role and/or workplace.

We have separate guidance on work experience.

Where can I find out more about apprenticeships in Scotland?

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) is Scotland’s national skills body involved in the delivery of apprenticeships. Full information on the three types of apprenticeships available in Scotland is available here.

Creative & Cultural Skills have a role in supporting the sector around apprenticeships and can be approached with any apprenticeship query by contacting

Are you a cultural employer considering a Modern Apprenticeship?

Cultural employers – find out more

Are you thinking about doing a Modern Apprenticeship?

Considering Modern Apprenticeship FAQs

Are you already in a Modern Apprenticeship?

Current Modern Apprenticeship FAQs