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.


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