An innovative Dundee-based project designed to give pupils the chance to train for the workplace while still at school is set to expand beyond its pilot stage and move into the mainstream.
Supported by DC Thomson and the Northwood Charitable Trust, the Future Skills College project began in 2017 after a study was commissioned on what could be done to help young people – especially those facing challenges – to move from education to employment.
The scheme gives senior pupils an opportunity to try out a potential career before committing to a full apprenticeship. It also allows them to combine college training and work placements while remaining on the school roll to continue with core curriculum subjects including literacy, numeracy and IT.
After a five-year trial, seed funded by the Northwood Charitable Trust, it has now been adopted by Dundee City Council and Dundee and Angus College as a core course offering for senior phase pupils in Dundee. Training will begin for a new cohort later this year in plumbing, electrical, joinery and early education and childcare.
Although at college, pupils remain on the school roll meaning they and their families can, if eligible, still access child benefit, education maintenance allowance and free school meals.
Ben Gray, director at DC Thomson and chairman of the FSC Trust, hopes it can be extended beyond Dundee.
He said: “It is a model that’s easily replicated. There are lots of other places across Scotland where this could make a difference.
“We’ve seen kids taking part in this really getting the bit between the teeth and reaching positive destinations. It means they can actually take control of their lives and that’s wonderful.”
What do students get from FSC?
As well as training in the college workshop, 16-year-old Leo Cura (above right) is taking the first steps towards a career as a plumber and spends a day each week working with building services firm McGill.
He said: “You learn most of the hands-on skills while you are working with the company and the knowledge side at college.”
Leo was considering his options for S5 at Grove Academy when a teacher told him about FSC.
He said: “Some people go straight into an apprenticeship without any practice but if you do this course before you go with a company you learn a lot of the skills so you are not getting thrown in at the deep end.”
What do graduates get from FSC?
Former Baldragon Academy pupil Jack Menzies (above), 18, is now an apprentice electrician with Dundee City Council, having completed his FSC course.
He pondered staying on for S6 but knew he wanted to become an electrician and saw the FSC as the right path to take.
He said: “For me it was a no brainer and it definitely helped me 100%.
“If you are going down the trade journey, whether it’s as a joiner, painter, decorator, Future Skills College is definitely the thing to do because it gives you the basics in what you need.
“You know what you are going into.”
What do employers get from FSC?
One employer which has taken on several apprentices after FSC work placements is Dundee-based Care Electrical Contractors.
Lee Mulholland, contracts manager, said: “It’s worked really well for us and a lot of the pupils that go through it end up getting jobs.
“FSC gives them a start because they’ve learned at college then they come to us on a day release and are picking up bits and pieces.
“I would definitely recommend it. It gives them a stepping stone to get in.”