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.


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