Modern Apprenticeships: FAQ

What is a Modern Apprenticeship?

Modern Apprenticeships provide the chance to ‘earn and learn’ in a wide range of jobs and sectors and give the Modern Apprentice a chance to develop skills, experience and qualifications.

Modern Apprenticeships were introduced in Scotland (and elsewhere in the UK) in the mid 1990s to raise the number of young adults - the mainstay of the future workforce - with skills at intermediate level (the equivalent of at least upper secondary education).

Since then, Modern Apprenticeships have undergone a number of changes both in terms of policy and delivery. They have evolved to provide training opportunities for people of all ages, helping to ensure that both new recruits and existing employees have the right skills required to tackle real jobs, and that employers have committed, highly trained employees. The number of Modern Apprentices in training was 37,687 in December 2023, 5.3% lower than the same point last year (SDS Modern Apprenticeship Statistics, February 2024).

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What do Modern Apprenticeship programmes offer?

The right support can make all the difference when it comes to learning new skills. Modern Apprenticeships provide the chance to gain invaluable industry recognised accreditations.

The employer and Skills Development Scotland will meet the cost of Modern Apprenticeships employee training, so there's no cost to the Modern Apprentice to learn new skills. The only investment the Modern Apprentice need make is in terms of time - and the effort put in will bring enormous rewards, in the form of improved self-confidence, competence, efficiency and motivation.

In most cases the Modern Apprentice will train for a SVQ at Level 3 or above, relevant to the industry or sector. This will usually take between two and four years.

The training will also cover core skills including:

  • communication;
  • teamwork;
  • problem solving skills;
  • numeracy; and
  • IT skills.

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What’s in it for you?

Modern Apprenticeships can open the door to a career by equipping the trainee with the skills, experience and qualifications required to develop a career path. A key factor to the Modern Apprenticeship programme is that it provides the opportunity for earning while learning.

Modern Apprenticeships provide:

  • a chance to learn while you earn – and to get real work experience;
  • Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) – the sector/industry-based vocational element or industry equivalent;
  • depending on the industry, a technical certificate to show you understand the underpinning theory or knowledge;
  • Core Skills – covering literacy, numeracy, Information Technology, problem solving and working with others, plus wider key and business skills as required by the sector; and
  • a chance to learn from experienced workers in the sector.

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What are you entitled to?

As with all workers, Modern Apprentices have entitlements within the workplace. Those undertaking the Modern Apprenticeship programme are entitled to:

  • a contract of employment;
  • a full induction in the workplace;
  • a negotiated training plan or contract between yourself, the employer and the training provider;
  • a fair wage (see section on ‘How much do Modern Apprentices get paid?’);
  • a safe working environment and protection from discrimination or bullying;
  • release from work to attend formal training;
  • provision of an appropriate range of experiences within the workplace to enable you to complete your qualifications;
  • access to support, guidance and mentoring;
  • quality training;
  • regular assessments and review of progress; and
  • sufficient time away from work station or desk to study in work time.

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What are the terms and conditions of employment?

All Modern Apprentices must have employed status. All employed Modern Apprentices are covered by the terms and conditions contained in their contract of employment and any relevant employment legislation.

You should receive the time off you need to study or train. Learners are entitled to their terms and conditions in writing. There should also be a contract of employment or training agreement in place.

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How much do Modern Apprentices get paid?

The amount paid to employed Modern Apprentices, as for all employees, is negotiated with the employer. Pay rates vary between sectors, regions and between different employers. Your union can help in negotiating pay rates.

All Modern Apprentices in the United Kingdom must be paid at least £6.40 per hour. This Apprenticeship National Minimum Wage applies to all those apprentices who were previously exempt from the National Minimum Wage, such as those aged 16-18 and those aged 19 or over, who are in the first year of their Modern Apprenticeship.

The wage for apprentices of £6.40 does not apply to Technical Apprenticeships and Professional Apprenticeship SCQF level 8/ SVQ level 4 and above. Technical Apprenticeships and Professional Apprenticeships should be paid according to the age of the apprentice.

From April 2024, these National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates and age bands apply:

21 and over: £11.44

18 to 20: £8.60 (Apprentice Rate applies to apprentices aged 19 or under)

Under 18: £6.40

Apprentice Rate*: £6.40

*Apprentices are entitled to the Apprentice Rate if they’re either:

  • aged under 19
  • aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship

Some sectors and workplaces will have their own wage levels above the NMW.

If you think you are not being paid what you are entitled to, you should contact your union.

More info available here:

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How do you join a trade union?

Unions negotiate fair pay and equal treatment in the workplace. Unions also tackle discrimination based on age, race, gender, sexuality and disability.

Unions will help ensure your Modern Apprenticeship is of high quality and that you are properly supported while you are doing it. Unions will negotiate with employers, making sure you get time off to study or train, and ensuring that you receive impartial information, advice and guidance, and are supported by a mentor. Your employer must give you the chance to join an appropriate union (unless you are working for the Ministry of Defence).

Find a Union

For more information about your rights at work, or which union to join, visit the TUC website.

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How do you become more active within your union?

Every union member can become more active. If you are interested in becoming an active rep, such as a Union Learning Representative or a Health and Safety Rep, contact your union for training information.

Young workers

Young workers can also make a big difference and there are many opportunities available to them. For example, you could contact your union to make arrangements to attend the STUC Youth Conference, which is held on an annual basis. This is an excellent way of getting a good understanding of how unions work, union involvement in campaigns and how you too can get involved, it is also an excellent opportunity to meet other young trade unionists from across Scotland.

To explore ways of becoming active within your branch, speak to your Shop Steward. If your branch would like an STUC speaker to attend a branch meeting to speak to the young workers, please email the STUC or call 0141 337 8100.

Better than Zero

Better than Zero is the STUC campaign against low pay and zero hours contracts for young (aged 16-30) and other vulnerable workers. You can follow the Better than Zero campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

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Do you have any case studies?

Case studies can be useful in promoting good practice, providing ideas for engagement between Modern Apprentices and their unions. You can view case studies in the Resources section. This section will grow to include more interesting and positive case studies.

If you would feel that your experience would make for a good case study, please contact:
Tommy Breslin, Senior Development Officer by email.

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How can you get more involved with the Modern Apprenticeship Project?

There are a number of ways in which you can get involved with the Modern Apprenticeship Project.

You can provide Scottish Union Learning with your Modern Apprenticeship story. Scottish Union Learning is building a bank of Case Studies to promote trade union engagement with the Modern Apprenticeship programme. If you would like your union’s experience of working with Modern Apprentices to be included, please email Tommy Breslin.


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What should you do if you are having a problem with your Modern Apprenticeship?

If you are a member of a union, you should contact your union.

If it's a workplace issue, then you can speak to your workplace supervisor/mentor, or if it's a training issue, then there may be a training provider rep or a Union Learning Rep who you can contact.

If you do not feel comfortable with these procedures, then you can report to the nearest Skills Development Scotland centre for guidance.

Visit the Skills Development Scotland website which can help you find your local centre.

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Lifelong learning

Trade unions are at the heart of the lifelong learning culture and play a central role in promoting workplace learning. Being a member of a trade union can provide you with life-skills in addition to those you undertake during your Modern Apprenticeship training. Building your skills and knowledge base can help you develop as an individual, as a team player and can help you build a career path.

Your Union Learning Rep can provide you with more information on workplace learning projects which are open to you.

There may be learning opportunities which are of interest to you but do not take place within the workplace. My World of Work can help provide information on what courses are available. SDS Individual Training Accounts (ITA) may also be able to offer financial support to help you undertake courses in your own time.

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What are Everyday Skills?

Everyday Skills support includes help with literacy, numeracy, basic IT skills and English language provision for those who do not have English as a first language. This can be arranged by Scottish Union Learning in collaboration with your trade union. Support for individuals who may have dyslexia can also be arranged, as well as dyslexia awareness-raising sessions for employees and employers.

For further information visit the Everyday Skills section, or contact:
Catherine Garvie, Senior Development Officer, by email.

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Equality and Diversity

Equality and social justice is central to the activities of the trade union movement in Scotland. The trade union movement is at the forefront of campaigning and promoting equality and diversity in the workplace. Examples include bargaining around equal pay or the Young Workers’ Fair Tips campaign.

The STUC organises around key equality areas to ensure that the issues facing all workers are represented. This includes representative structures for Black Workers, Disabled Workers, LGBT Workers, Young Workers and Women Workers.

Individual union activists and members play a central role in challenging discriminatory practices and making sure workplaces are promoting diversity and a positive workplace culture. They are often the first point of contact when members want to make a complaint or sometimes just to talk something over that is worrying them at work.

To find out more about how the STUC and individual affiliated unions are working to promote equality, visit the STUC website.

To support equality and diversity, the STUC has five equalities committees:

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How can you provide feedback?

If you would there is information about Modern Apprenticeships that you would like to see added to the website, please contact:

Tommy Breslin, Senior Development Officer - Modern Apprenticeship Project
Tel: 0141 337 8111 or email.

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What are the latest developments around Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships?

It is important to keep up to date with the latest news around Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships, as new initiatives start and changes in policy are made, a central supply point of relevant information is helpful.

The Skills Development Scotland website provides up to date information on the latest developments on Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships.

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Useful links

Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Websites

The STUC speaks for trade union members in and out of work, in the community and in the workplace, in all occupational sectors and across Scotland.

Better than Zero

Better than Zero is a young trade union group fighting against zero hour contracts and exploitation in the hospitality industry. All workers have the right to join a union if they so choose. It is in your best interest to join one as research has shown that members within unionised workplaces receive better pay, conditions and benefits.

STUC Youth Committee
The STUC Youth Committee is made up young workers less than 27 years of age from across Scotland and campaigns on a range of issues including the National Minimum Wage and health and safety of young workers. It represents young workers views and opinions to a number of bodies including government.

STUC Equalities Committees
The STUC Equalities Committees aim to tackle discrimination towards workers that may face discrimination in the workplace.

Skills Development Scotland Websites is the Skills Development Scotland online service for Scottish Apprenticeships, for information on becoming an apprentice.

Learning providers can find out more about Modern Apprenticeships in the dedicated learning provider resource section.

Skills Development Scotland
Skills Development Scotland is Scotland’s new skills body and is responsible for the Scottish Government’s delivery of the Modern Apprenticeship programme and are partners in Scottish Union Learning’s Modern Apprenticeship Project.

Skills Development Scotland: Centres

How to find your local Skills Development Scotland centre.

Skills Development Scotland: Finding funding for courses
Funding can come as a grant or a loan or, in some circumstances, as free course fees. In most cases your income is assessed to see what you are entitled to and there is different support depending on the type of course you want to do.

Skills Development Scotland: Individual Training Account (ITA)
An Individual Training Account may be able to help you pay for learning that you can do at a time, place, and pace in a way to suit you. It’s for people who have an income of £22,000 a year or less, or who are on benefits.

My World of Work
My World of Work is Skills Development Scotland's online service to help people plan, build and direct their career throughout their lives. It contains information and tools to help people get a job and develop their career.

Other Useful Websites

Citizens Advice Scotland

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) and bureaux all over the country are working together to improve the lives of the people that live here.

Close the Gap
Close the Gap works across Scotland with employers, trade unions and individuals, to encourage and enable action to address the gender pay gap. Close the Gap have worked with a number of individual trade unions to raise awareness of the pay gap, and to build capacity among reps to tackle equal pay issues within their workplaces.

The latest Apprenticeships in Scotland, Graduate, Trainee and Intern roles. You can also find early careers advice, tips and resources to help develop you.

Equate Scotland: for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
Equate Scotland sets out to create sustainable change for the participation of women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sectors in Scotland through changing employment practices and workplace cultures to support gender equality; and supporting the recruitment, retention, return and success of women where they are significantly under-represented.

Federation for Industry Sector Skills & Standards
The Alliance of Sector Skills Councils has announced that it has changed its name to the Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards to reflect its new agenda.

The Health and Safety Executive
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the national independent watchdog for work-related health, safety and illness. We are an independent regulator and act in the public interest to reduce work-related death and serious injury across Great Britain’s workplaces.

Lone Working
Information on Lone Working is available on the TUC website. The HSE defines lone workers as “those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision”. Care work, shop-work, and maintenance work – most jobs – can require people to be left alone and isolated, which can be dangerous.

National Minimum Wage
National Minimum Wage rates can be found on the website.

Redress is part of THOMPSONS Scotland a leading Scottish legal practice specialising in personal injury claims. Thompsons Scotland’s practice has traditionally worked on behalf of the leading Scottish trade unions and organisations.

Violence and aggression in the workplace
Violence at work, whether physical or verbal is unacceptable. All workers have a right to a safe work environment free from abuse in all forms. Suffering threatening behaviour isn’t part of the job.



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Related resources

Modern Apprenticeship Case StudiesModern Apprenticeship Case Studies This second edition of the Modern Apprenticeship Case Studies publication has a greater focus on equalities.

The Modern Apprenticeship ToolkitThe Modern Apprenticeship Toolkit This is the second edition of the Modern Apprenticeship Toolkit.

Your Rights as a Modern ApprenticeYour Rights as a Modern Apprentice 2023 update: The 2014 edition contains useful information however is being updated to reflect changes in Scotland.