New Early Learning Graduate Apprentices start at University

The University of the Highlands and Islands has welcomed its first, full cohort of Graduate Apprentices in Early Learning and Childcare.

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GA early learning and childcare students

A total of 15 apprentices from early learning and childcare settings across Scotland have signed up to the Graduate Apprenticeship (GA) in Early Learning and Childcare – one of two being piloted in Scotland in 2019/20.

The GA enables, for the first time, school leavers, people looking to change career or those already working in the industry, the opportunity to follow an alternative work-based learning route with an employer, to study up to degree level, and gain Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) practitioner status, all within three years.

On completion of the GA, the apprentices will graduate with a degree plus valuable work-based experience.

Local authority nurseries in Perth and Kinross, Argyll and Bute, Shetland and Moray are amongst those to sign up apprentices, along with private and third sector employers in the Highlands and Islands.

The cohort includes a student progressing from the Social Services Children and Young People Foundation Apprenticeship at Perth College UHI.  

The Early Learning and Childcare sector in Scotland is facing a skills shortage and the GA supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to employ 11,000 new childcare workers by 2020 to enable it to meet its commitment of providing 30 hours of free childcare to eligible 2-year-olds, and 3 and 4 year-olds by next year (2020).

It also supports aspirations to raise the overall quality of early learning and childcare provision and the ambitions of staff within the sector, who want to be degree qualified.

The delivery of the University of the Highlands and Islands pilot programme is led by Inverness College UHI and is networked across university partners including MorayPerth, Shetland, Lews Castle and Argyll allowing people to study remotely while living and working in their local community.

The apprentices are attending their local University of the Highlands and Islands partner on day-release, with assessors visiting them in the workplace. Work undertaken ‘on the job’ will contribute to their studies. Apprentices and their managers attended a three-day welcome induction at Inverness College UHI last month.

GA programme leader Alice Mongiello said:

“This Graduate Apprenticeship is enabling people living in some of the remotest parts of Scotland to study up to degree level, while working in an early learning and childcare setting.  We are delighted to be piloting this new programme, which has been positively received by early learning and childcare providers across Scotland, enabling us to fill all the places allocated by Skills Development Scotland. We met with all the apprentices and managers as part of a three-day induction and the feedback was excellent, with everyone excited about what this type of qualification could mean for the sector.”

The pilot was approved by Skills Development Scotland following a successful bid by the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Skills Development Scotland, Director of Service Design and Innovation, Jonathan Clark, said:


“The success and growth of Graduate Apprenticeships demonstrates that they are supporting employers to upskill their workforce and giving individuals more opportunities to learn and develop their career whilst in employment.

“Universities and colleges across the country are widening their choice of Graduate Apprenticeships and Skills Development Scotland will continue to develop subjects that focus on a range of sectors where there is a need for highly skilled jobs, such as Early Learning and Childcare.”

The GA adds to the range of other early learning and childcare qualifications offered by the University of the Highlands and Islands including its Children and Young People Foundation Apprenticeship and Modern Apprenticeship, and its Introduction, HNC and BA (Hons) in Childhood Practice.

In Scotland currently only four per cent of the workforce is male. Four university partners Argyll College UHI, Inverness College UHIMoray College UHI and West Highland College UHI have set up fast-track courses to tackle stereotypes and encourage more men into the profession.  

Graduate Apprenticeships have been developed by Skills Development Scotland with support from the Scottish Government and the Scottish Social Services Council, in partnership with employers, colleges, universities and Sector Skills Councils.

Graduate Apprenticeships are a relatively new way to work, learn and earn, bringing together the knowledge, technical, practical and job specific skills employers are looking for. The university currently offers the Graduate Apprenticeship in Civil Engineering delivered by Inverness College UHI.

For more information on the range of apprenticeships available through the University of the Highlands and Islands partnership, visit