Student gains coveted BBC apprenticeship

Media Studies student, 19 year old Brendan Behan was one of ten out of 1,000 applicants who managed to secure a coveted media apprenticeship place at BBC Scotland.

Brendan started at the college as a sports student. A huge basketball fan, he entered and won a trip to Chicago to make and promote a basketball video. His experience of working with the film crew in Chicago was so inspiring that he changed his career path to study media studies and production.

The selection panel at the BBC was particularly impressed with the standard of the short film Brendan edited this year for Ayrshire and Arran Tourist Board, which had asked Brendan’s media class to film tourist attractions and accommodation to show at their annual conference, The Gathering. The students produced a 20 minute promotional film, putting a lot of imagination and hard work into the final cut. Brendan especially showed his commitment by being involved in every shot and the final edit.

Brendan said “At the BBC I’ll be working on everything from pre-production to post production, operating cameras and radio production. The college projects really helped and gave me an edge at the interview stage. I had experience of working on everything from camera work, titles, editing, music and my portfolio, so I could offer the whole professional package.”


Interested in media courses?

Using the most up-to-date technology, Ayrshire College courses aim to equip students with necessary skills required to succeed in a career in the media. Live projects include elements of writing, radio, television, journalism, photography, as well as social media and finished film.

To find out more phone 0300 303 0303 or to apply visit


Apprenticeship kickstarted my career!

Learning while earning as an apprentice is a great start to a career. Ayrshire College staff who started their careers as apprentices share their stories.

Emma McIlvanney, Marketing and PR Officer

I started a modern apprenticeship 15 years ago at what is now the Kilmarnock campus of Ayrshire College. About to finish school, I wanted to study marketing and had the opportunity to start an apprenticeship in the College’s marketing department. I was unsure at first. I’d achieved my Highers and envisaged studying at a more advanced level. However, I was aware that many people left university and struggled to gain employment due to a lack of work experience. Also, most had student loans to pay back. I weighed up my options and decided to opt for the apprenticeship.

I studied SVQ levels 2 and 3 in Administration as part of the programme. I also chose to work towards an HND in Business Administration. Working and studying was difficult but my employer was understanding and gave me the time and support I needed. I am now a Marketing and PR Officer at Ayrshire College and believe that the knowledge and experience I gained during my apprenticeship equipped me with the skills I needed for a career in marketing. Not only was I able to work towards recognised qualifications, I earned my own money and gained real work experience.

Karen Johnstone, Student Funding Advisor

I did my modern apprenticeship at what is now the Kilwinning campus of Ayrshire College. My apprenticeship was an HNC in Administration and Information Management. I worked at GlaxoSmithKline and really felt that this helped with my coursework. On a daily basis I would be carrying out the kind of work I was studying at college.

It also felt good to be working while studying as I was gaining a qualification as well as real-life experience in an office environment. I would definitely recommend a modern apprenticeship to anyone thinking about applying for one. It got me to where I am today!


Emma McIlvanney (left) and Karen Johnstone (right)

Gordon Keary, Lecturer

I started out in the aircraft industry nearly 23 years ago as an aircraft engineering apprentice with British Aerospace. With an interest in flight deck design, human-computer interaction and human engineering, I went on to graduate in 2000 with a BSc (Hons) in Medical Engineering.

After graduation I moved into a systems engineering role on military projects with BAE Systems and progressed to Senior Systems Engineer responsible for the design and certification of airborne Avionics equipment on civil and military aircraft. I was selected as the systems lead for the development of cutting edge autonomous unmanned air vehicles.

I became a lecturer in 2008 and helped develop the HND and BEng Aircraft Engineering programmes. My apprenticeship gave me a solid foundation upon which I’ve built my career. It gives me great satisfaction to be training today’s generation of aircraft engineering apprentices and helping to kickstart their careers in the aerospace industry.

Helen Canning, Director of Student Services

I served my apprenticeship with National Semiconductor in Greenock (now Texas Instruments) and it was a great foundation for developing my technical, planning and people skills. I really enjoyed my time as an apprentice and it prepared me well for my engineering degree which I did part-time. I had practical experience to support the theoretical learning and could easily see how to apply what I was learning

High quality training and development delivered through apprenticeships can be the cornerstone of a great career – most of my fellow apprentices went on to be senior engineers or managers! I would recommend the apprenticeship route. You gain valuable experience, qualifications, develop your skills for further learning and receive an income while you learn.

David Middleton, Curriculum Manager

I served an apprenticeship as a Light Vehicle Mechanic with a local employer and attended what is now the Kilmarnock campus of Ayrshire College for 3 years on a day release programme. It was great being an apprentice, learning your trade at the same time as earning a wage!

During my apprenticeship I became aware of other higher qualifications which would provide opportunities of furthering my career in the motor industry. On completion of my apprenticeship, and while working in industry, I progressed into higher education on a part-time basis. This allowed me to undertake exams at a higher level allowing me to gain membership of professional organisations. These qualifications are recognised across the world and helped advance my career.

My job gives me the opportunity to help today’s apprentices develop the skills they need to progress in their careers. I’m pleased to say that my own son has just started a Modern Apprenticeship!

Ainslay Miller, Lecturer

I did a Modern Apprenticeship when I was working for Thistle Hotels. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working and learning together, and found it hugely beneficial to gain my qualifications in a real working environment where I had access to a full team of experienced chefs to gain knowledge from.

I was also very lucky to have an understanding employer who allowed me time to meet my assessor and allow her to observe my work, often through very busy periods.


Ayrshire apprentices win Young Innovators Challenge

Four second year Modern Apprentices with Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance Ltd were amongst the winners of the Young Innovators Challenge announced on 12 May 2014. The only apprentices amongst the winners, the skills they have developed on the job and at college were instrumental in creating their innovation. Here’s what they have to say.

Martin Gemmell, 19, SVQ Level 3 Aeronautical Engineering

I’ve always wanted to travel and this is a career which offers you lots of opportunities to work abroad. My dad, brother and cousins work in the same industry, so I guess I’ve always been destined to follow in their footsteps and work with aircraft.

Since leaving school and coming to college I have really matured. My social skills are much better and I’ve learned how to handle myself better in conversations, develop practical skills and work more efficiently.

Coming to college has given me a professional mind-set and a greater understanding of what to expect in the workplace. I feel confident working alongside my workmates and in my ability to achieve the tasks my employer gives me. What I’ve learnt at college has been really valuable – even some of my workmates have been impressed when I speak about my work in the flight simulator. Physically making a model or part from scratch is the most satisfying part of the course. I love the sense of achievement and pride you get from seeing something you have built and getting to hold it in your hands.

The support from lecturers was a great help in this year’s Young Innovators Challenge. They taught us how to be methodical in our work, and to develop a critical overview of our work so that we are constantly improving and developing our ideas. Looking for, and identifying faults in this industry is a great skill to have.

I would advise anyone thinking of undertaking an apprenticeship to keep your head down and get stuck in. Being an apprentice gives you a great advantage as you are learning on the job, whilst attending the college to learn and develop new ways of working. It’s definitely the best of both worlds. When I complete my course, I would like to work abroad and have ambitions of working within the managerial side of the aircraft maintenance industry.

Christopher Leitch, 20, SVQ Level 3 Aeronautical Engineering

Before I came to Ayrshire College I worked as a waiter. I had always been interested in aircraft and I knew that I wanted to work in a hands-on technical role.

I joined the college on the full-time NC Aircraft Engineering course. It was a great introduction to the subject, and gave me the skills and experience I needed to secure my apprenticeship with Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance Ltd.

The facilities at Ayrshire College are first class, my favourite parts of the course was the work in the flight simulator and the practical hand work. My skills in tasks like riveting have improved so much and this is making the difference in the workplace.

The course ties in perfectly with working on an aircraft and it gives me a lot of confidence when I can carry out a task my employer asks me to do using the knowledge and skills I have learned from my college lecturers.

Taking part in this year’s Young Innovators Challenge has been a great learning curve and, thanks to the support of our lecturers, I’ve learned that dedication and hard work have been instrumental in our success.

If you’re thinking about a career in this industry, I would say go for it! It’s a great career and one I have learned so much from. It’s a really interesting job. Every day is a challenge, but one you are prepared for thanks to the support of the lecturers at college. Once I complete my apprenticeship I hope to go on and complete my B1 licence and in the future I would like to become a pilot.


Conor Mackellar, 20, SVQ Level 3 Aeronautical Engineering

After leaving school in 6th year, I joined Ayrshire College on the HNC Aircraft Engineering course before joining the apprenticeship programme. The HNC gave me a good insight into the requirements of the industry and provided me with the skills I needed to gain employment as an apprentice.

I love learning how things work and have a passion for stripping things down and rebuilding them. On this course, there is a big focus on maths and science and I can now apply these a lot better, whilst my hand-skills and general understanding of how different equipment works have really developed.

I am normally quite a quiet shy person but, since coming to college, I’ve definitely become more confident in talking to people and in working as part of a team. The skills I’ve learned at college are very applicable within the workplace. I am becoming more aware of the complex parts within an aircraft and what it is they actually do.

Working for Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance Ltd is a great career and one I am really enjoying. Learning about different aircraft systems, combined with my college skills, gave me the confidence to enter this year’s Young Innovators Challenge and the product my team and I have developed has only been possible thanks to the knowledge and experience we’ve gained from our apprenticeships.

If you think that going to university is not for you after finishing school, going to college is definitely a good start. Gaining an apprenticeship offers a great insight into the industry and is a move I’ll never regret.

Ross Wallace, 20, SVQ Level 3 Aeronautical Engineering

My father was in the RAF, so for as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in aircraft and the science of flight. I joined Ayrshire College two years ago and completed the HNC Aircraft Engineering course. The course was great and I learned so much from it. Having a year’s experience under my belt was a big advantage when it came to applying for the apprenticeship.

I love working with engines and learning about the theory behind how they operate and how to fix them. At college I’ve greatly improved my understanding of this, as well as the maths and science aspects of the course and how these relate to the mechanical workings of an aircraft.

Coming to college has allowed me to know straight away what my employer is asking me to do, as well as having the ability to pick up new skills quickly. Completing the HNC course first was a definite advantage in this area. I have found the apprenticeship to be a perfect fit between what I learn in college and what I do in the workplace.

I cannot praise the lecturing team at Ayrshire College enough, they have been a great support with my participation in this year’s Young Innovators Challenge. What most impressed me is the realisation of how much I have actually learned in my time at college and how I could apply these skills to the requirements of the Challenge. Enjoying success in this competition has certainly made all the effort I have put in worthwhile.

Apprenticeships are definitely the best way of learning and building experience in this industry, plus you get to earn a wage at the same time. Working in this industry is a dream come true for me and I hope to enjoy a long career in it. With the skills I am developing there are endless opportunities available to me in future.


Yvonne Neil talks about being an engineer in a “man’s world”

Read Yvonne’s story on how she became Chief Design Engineer at BAE Systems.

How I ended up as an engineering apprentice

I went to Auchinleck Academy where my favourite subjects were Science, Maths and Art so my career plan early on was to do architecture or interior design. Then in my fourth year at school I got the opportunity to join 30 other girls across Scotland on the Jordanhill Campus and experience a week learning about Engineering. I got a work placement in Ravenscraig and also a site visit to Rolls Royce. This experience changed my mind and I knew at that point engineering was going to be my career.

I attended a careers convention in Cumnock at which BAE Systems was looking for apprentices. Of the 37 selected, I was the only girl but that did not phase me at all. I left school at 16 years of age and eagerly anticipated my new job where I would be earning and learning at the same time.

In our first year we all went through an in-house training school gaining experience in a wide range of skills – electrical, sheet metal working, detail fitting, machining – and at the end of the year we were asked which trade we preferred. I chose to become an aircraft electrician.

Achieving my qualifications

I started college and attended the now Ayr campus of Ayrshire College on a day release basis to complete ONC Electrical and Electronic Engineering. It was great being able to work and learn right here in Ayrshire. I moved to what is now the Kilmarnock campus of Ayrshire College to study for my HNC qualification and in the workplace I gained experience in electrical loom formation, panel assembly, leading to the installation on aircraft and connecting all the major electrical/avionic components.

I then moved to the “Flightline” and learned how to test the navigation, communication and passenger service systems. It’s at this stage the aircraft is tested on the ground to support the safety case to take it flying. My job would be to monitor electrical systems while the aircraft were doing performing engine ground runs.

During my apprenticeship, I had a placement in the design office and worked from initial aircraft design concepts to final designs, manufacturing and installation support. I really enjoyed this experience and it led to me being offered a position as a trainee design engineer. From the start it was a well paid job and by the time I was 19 years of age I could afford to buy my own house and be financially independent.

Moving up the ladder

Over the last 20 years I have progressed up the career ladder to design engineer, senior design engineer, principal design engineer, project design engineer, deputy chief design engineer to my current role as chief design engineer.

I have responsibility for the capability of the design team, training and development, governance and technical leadership on programmes of work. An example of a project we have recently worked on is modifying a commercial aircraft for the Ministry of Defence. We had to understand what our customer requirements were and modify the aircraft with defensive aids, avionic upgrades, cabin interior changes and then get all these changes certificated either by the UK CAA and MAA.

The best part of my job is resolving the technical complexities of aircraft design. I also like working with different people across the organisation. I am the chair of the “Fleet Integrity” process which monitors airworthiness events on our aircraft types. This includes looking at aircraft problems, trends and making sure we make informed decisions about the safety of our product.

Engineering your future

It’s a really exciting job where you learn something new every day. I’ve had lots of opportunities to travel the world throughout my career. Women are more than capable of working in this environment but I do believe there is still a feeling you have to prove yourself as it is still a “man’s world culture” in this industry. However I have always found my colleagues to be very supportive and respectful and I have never felt being a woman has disadvantaged me or held me back as I have grown and developed over the last 25 years.


Yvonne Neil, BAE Systems


Modern Apprenticeships supporting career changes for Katie and Sarah

Katie Jayne MacLachlan from Kilwinning, Modern Apprentice with Neil Barr Decorating Services Ltd

I began my apprenticeship in 2013 after spending a year at college studying NPA Painting and Decorating. Before that, I had studied Beauty Therapy but never really enjoyed it. I wanted a more hands-on role and this course suits me perfectly. The NPA course was a great introduction to painting and decorating and taught me the basic skills of the trade which helped me a lot as I began my apprenticeship. I felt that I knew a lot of the tasks that my employer was asking me to do, which helped me settle into working life.

I’m mostly working in domestic properties, decorating client’s houses. I now have the confidence to visit a property and know instantly what I am supposed to do and what tools to use. It really is amazing how much I have learned.

I go to college on a block release basis and really enjoy learning new skills which I take back to my employer. I was a quite a shy person before I started college but have become more confident at talking to others and expressing my opinion. I could never have done that before.

My apprenticeship lasts for four years, and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn new skills, develop new techniques and become the best I can be. Painting and decorating is a great career and gives you lots of opportunities. If you feel this is the career for you, then my advice is simply, go for it!

Sarah Thomson from Girvan, Modern Apprentice at the Turnberry Resort

I had been a Chef since leaving school and, although I really enjoyed the job, I felt that I wanted to do something different. Major renovations at home gave me the opportunity to decorate every room and this inspired me to look at painting and decorating as a career.

This course has taught me about preparing and coating walls, mixing paint colours and hanging wallpaper. The most important lesson I’ve learned is the more work you put into preparation, the better the finished product will look. It’s not just about painting walls and hanging wallpaper. You get the opportunity to be creative, and one of my favourite parts of the course is creating stencil designs and using these as an impressive focal point, at low cost, in any room.

Since coming to college I have definitely become more outgoing and able to work better with people. Being a student at Ayrshire College has also opened up career opportunities for me and I’m really excited to have secured an apprenticeship at Turnberry! I’m really looking forward to the challenge of working at such a famous resort and can’t wait to get started in the summer, whilst still attending college on a block-release basis over the next 3 years.

I would recommend Ayrshire College to any aspiring painters and decorators. Coming to college as a mature student was a big step for me. I had to quit one of my jobs to take this course but I’ll never regret it. This has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Turning a hobby into a career will soon be a reality.


Turnberry apprentices turn up the heat!

Ayrshire College is supporting eight trainees undertake a Modern Apprenticeship in Hospitality at SVQ levels 2 and 3 at the Turnberry Resort, one of Ayrshire’s premier tourist destinations. To meet the needs of the resort’s business, the College devised a flexible training solution to allow the apprentices to be based fully in the workplace with regular assessments carried out by the College.

A few months into their apprenticeships, here’s what four of the apprentices have to say.


Scott Jackett SVQ Level 2 Professional Cookery, Modern Apprentice

I’ve always had a passion for food so when the opportunity to work at Turnberry came up I jumped at the chance. Working here has been a great experience. It’s an amazing place with lots of opportunities for progression at home and abroad. At the moment I am working as a Commis Chef, focusing on pastry and baking breads. I’m learning so much and have enjoyed working my way around the resort over the last 18 months, covering the kitchen, larder, fish and sauce corners.

I’d thought about starting an apprenticeship for a while and to do it fully in the workplace is a real bonus. Gaining the right skills and qualifications to become successful is great. Working abroad is where I see myself in years to come and I hope to look back at this time as when my career really took off!

Jodine Mitchell SVQ Level 2 Professional Cookery, Modern Apprentice

This is the second time I’ve been a student at Ayrshire College. After graduating in HND in Graphic Design I evaluated my next career move and decided I wanted to get involved in something more hands-on. I did a Princes Trust course called ‘Get into Hospitality’ which inspired me to consider working in hospitality. I came to Turnberry for a family meal and, purely by chance, the opportunity to take part in this apprenticeship came up.

At the moment I’m working with pastry. I really love it, especially the sugar work. Along with a few of the other trainees, we’ve just built a gingerbread house which was a lot of fun and yet technically challenging. It certainly put my design skills to good use! In the future I plan to open my own restaurant. I’m looking at this course as a way of gaining the skills and qualifications to become a better Chef which will allow me to achieve my dreams.

Ruraidri Patterson SVQ Level 2 Professional Cookery, Modern Apprentice

I was brought up in the Hospitality trade. My dad works in the industry and my mum is a pastry chef, so you could say I was destined to follow in their footsteps! I first came to Turnberry for a week’s work experience. I really enjoyed it and couldn’t believe when I was offered the chance to join the apprenticeship programme. At the moment I am working in the larder. I love the buzz and the atmosphere when service starts, it certainly gets the adrenaline pumping.

Every day I am learning new skills and meeting new people. Starting this apprenticeship is really exciting and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can whilst working in the resort. My ambition is to become a Head Chef in years to come, ideally in France or Spain. I’m really interested in the history and origins of cooking, and I want to be the best Chef I can be. By putting in the hard work and absorbing as much information as I can, I know I can succeed in my ambitions.

Nicola Laidman SVQ Level 3 Professional Cookery, Modern Apprentice

I first became involved in the Hospitality trade years ago when I worked for another major Ayrshire hotelier. Not having the qualifications to progress, I left my job and went to college where I achieved the Introductory and NC Professional Cookery courses. Whilst studying I gained casual employment at Turnberry. As part of my college course, I undertook a week’s work experience in the kitchens and this gave me the confidence to consider becoming a Chef. After completing my courses, I gained full-time employment with Turnberry and I’m currently employed in the Clubhouse helping to run the larder corner.

Getting the opportunity to do the modern apprenticeship programme is really exciting. I’m looking forward to learning more and developing myself further. I can’t believe I am going back into learning after so many years working. It just goes to show you are never too old to learn something new!


Scottish Apprenticeship Week gets off to a flying start

Scottish Apprenticeship Week kicked off last Friday in the week that four of our second-year aircraft engineering apprentices were announced as winners in the Young Innovators Challenge 2014!

The Young Innovators Challenge invited Scotland’s students to submit ideas which address problems related to healthcare and wellbeing, green and sustainable energy resources, or smarter communities and infrastructure. Ayrshire College students Martin Gemmell, Christopher Leitch, Conor MacKellar and Ross Wallace developed their innovation using skills they have learnt as apprentices and you can read more about their success on our website. Watch out for a blog later in the week to find out more about what being an apprentice and winning this award means to them.

We are proud of all of our students’ achievements and celebrate these throughout the year. Next month we will be holding ceremonies in Ayr, Irvine and Kilmarnock to celebrate the hard work and successes of this year’s students. For a flavour of these success stories read the latest editions of our CONNECT magazine and The Student Voice.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week demonstrates the value that apprentices add to businesses. It shows young people, and those who influence their choices, that apprenticeships make good career choices. Ayrshire College brings employers and education together to make sure that the skills young people leave college with are those that industry needs. We work with small, medium and large companies to develop their workforce through apprenticeships. This year the College will support up to 900 Modern Apprentices continue or start their training with employers in sectors like engineering, hospitality, construction, care, hairdressing and motor vehicle maintenance.

This week our apprentices take centre stage and we will highlight the contribution that these students are already making to their workplace, the College and the wider community. You can hear about some of these in the videos on our website. Each of the businesses in these videos believes in the importance of their employees achieving vocational qualifications through a combination of college based learning and on-the-job experience. The young people demonstrate why apprenticeships are so important to them. More videos of apprentices supported by the College are available in the Modern Apprenticeships section on our website.

These are exciting times for students at Ayrshire College, and for the employers and communities we support. A wide range of full-time courses is available from August, including new courses introduced in response to demand from local employers. College facilities will be upgraded over the summer so that students continue to study industry relevant courses using industry standard resources in environments that mirror the relevant industry sector.

Check our website regularly and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube to keep up to date on the latest developments at the College.