Twelve senior pupils from across six East Lothian Secondary Schools have completed their Foundation Apprenticeship (FA) in Scientific Technologies despite facing challenges from lockdown restrictions.

The FA in Scientific Technologies is a two year course and was first introduced in 2018. The first year of the course is school-based and, in the second year, students spend afternoons on placement in research laboratories to gain real experience of the workplace.

David Dickson FA Coordinator and Teacher at Dunbar Grammar School said: “The pandemic severely restricted the delivery of our programme as only Charles River Laboratories and the Chemical Engineering Department at Edinburgh University were in a position to safely host students in their labs. Additionally, the winter lockdown restrictions meant that students were unable to attend placement until March this year which reduced the time available to complete their qualification. However, the students displayed both determination and resilience, even attending lab sessions during Easter Break. The scientists and assessors based at Charles River and Edinburgh University did a tremendous job of providing additional support to students during this difficult period.”

Foundation Apprenticeships are open to young people from all six East Lothian secondary schools, blending traditional classroom teaching with skills-based learning in a work environment. Assessed at SCQF level 6 (equivalent to Higher), students can use the FA qualification to move on to a Modern Apprenticeship or gain entry to a University course when they leave school.

Richard Shaw, Internal Verifier at Clyde College in Glasgow said: “It was a miracle that we managed to get one student through the course, let alone twelve! There is no doubt that our success was down to the dedication of our partners in the scientific community and the motivation of our fantastic students.”

A number of these students have now secured further employment with Charles River since leaving school.  

Leah Melrose, former Dunbar Grammar School student said: “I enjoyed my time at CRL and asked if I was able to continue to work there as part of a gap year. Working for CRL provides great experience for my Biological Science studies at university and future as a scientist.”

Liam Buchanan, former Ross High School student said: “I enjoyed working with the staff in my department and learnt how to carry out various jobs such as, making solutions and thin layer chromatography.”

Claire Scott, former Ross High School student was also offered a lab-based job after completing her apprenticeship award. She said: “I enjoyed working alongside experienced staff, building on my knowledge and skills. The hands on training made me feel more confident in a working environment. The support I received throughout the placement from staff and Mr Dickson was really helpful, it created a lot of opportunities for me as I didn’t want to go on to further education and have managed to get a job straight from school”.

Graham Allan, scientist & assessor at Charles River said: “Charles River Laboratories have been involved in Foundation Apprenticeships from the very beginning. We are delighted to have established such a positive partnership across East Lothian Secondary Schools as part of our educational outreach programme. All too often students feel they have to go to University to embark on a scientific career and this simply isn’t the case anymore. It’s extremely rewarding to see young, talented Foundation Apprenticeship students taking up positions within our company when they leave school – they all have a bright future ahead of them.”

Fiona Dugdale, Councillor and Education and Children’s services said: “This has been such a great achievement for the Foundation Apprentices during an uncertain and challenging time. It also illustrates the high standard of support offered to the students by businesses who are also facing their own pressures. I’d like to congratulate all of the young people involved. Alongside the excellent SQA results published earlier this month, the success of the Foundation Apprenticeship programme highlights the number of opportunities that exist for young people to succeed in East Lothian schools.”

East Lothian offers four F.A courses which are available to young people from S4 including Accountancy, Business Skills, Social Services Children and Young people. Find out more about Foundation Apprenticeships.

foundation apprenticeships



Published: Friday, 3rd September 2021