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SIS champion Foundation Apprentices

Pupils from Dunbar Grammar School, North Berwick High School and Preston Lodge High School in East Lothian have spent lockdown preparing for the world of work by undertaking Foundation Apprenticeships in providing financial services with Social Investment Scotland (SIS), Scotland’s leading responsible finance provider.

Rachel Miller, Abbie Chisholm and Emma Roy, all aged 16, have been working towards the qualification for the last 18 months alongside their regular schoolwork – including balancing the demands of the apprenticeship programme with online learning during the pandemic.

Foundation Apprenticeships were launched in 2016 to help S5 and S6 pupils gain valuable, real-world work experience while still at school, with the qualification equivalent to a SQA Higher. They are offered to senior school pupils as part of the curriculum when making their subject choices.

The pupils have already achieved a National Progression Award, after completing the classroom-style learning segment of the course, which was delivered by Limelight Careers on behalf of East Lothian Council.

A large part of the programme usually involves a work-based placement, however, given the work-from-home guidance, many of the placements with financial services providers have been put on hold. SIS stepped in to offer the pupils an opportunity to join the team virtually.

Having undertaken SIS’s full induction programme and compliance for anti-money laundering training, the pupils have also spent time with the organisation’s head of credit and finance and operations teams, offering them invaluable insight into the world of responsible finance.

The pupils are now tasked with their final project, which involves delivering a presentation to the SIS leadership team based on sector-wide research. The challenge focuses on diversity and inclusion with the pupils ultimately working together to deliver their recommendations for SIS.

Emma Roy from North Berwick High School, said “Over the last year, regular schoolwork and exams have been so up in the air, but it’s been reassuring to have the apprenticeship programme going on at the same time which will give me a formal qualification. Financial services is a really interesting sector and I’m hoping that the experience and work with SIS will help to set me up for a future career. I’ve developed my knowledge of finance throughout the programme but have also had the opportunity to build confidence and practice other skills like teamwork and communication.”

SIS was one of the first financial organisations in Scotland to support this kind of foundation apprenticeships for school pupils. Over the last two years, the organisation has welcomed six pupils to its team as part of their learning experience, supporting them on their journey into employment.

Lindsay Wake, Head of Impact at SIS, said: “We have been supporting apprentices for a number of years, but we’ve had to quickly adapt this years’ programme to ensure that the pupils get the same valuable experience from working alongside our teams remotely. We’ve been impressed with the pupils’ resilience and willingness to learn, despite the uncertainty of the world around them, and we hope to see them continue on to exciting and rewarding careers in the financial services sector.”