Destined to be an engineer

Ayrshire College graduate Yvonne Neil explains how she became Chief Design Engineer at BAE Systems.

What sparked your interest in engineering?

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. In fourth year at school I joined 30 other girls across Scotland to experience a week learning about engineering. As part of this, I got a work placement in Ravenscraig steel works and a site visit to Rolls Royce. This experience changed my mind and I knew then that engineering was going to be my career.

Tell us about your apprenticeship and the qualifications you achieved

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 didn’t phase me at all. I left school at 16 and eagerly looked forward to my new job where I would be earning and learning at the same time!

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

I attended what is now the Ayr campus of Ayrshire College on a day release basis to complete an 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 to study my HNC qualification. In the workplace I gained experience in electrical loom formation and panel assembly, which led to the installation on aircraft and connecting all the major electrical and avionic components.

During my apprenticeship I had a placement in the design office and worked from initial aircraft design concepts to final design, 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 just 19 years old, I could afford to buy my own house and be financially independent!

How has your career developed?

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’m now responsible for the capability of the design team, training and development, governance and technical leadership on programmes of work. The best part of my job is resolving the technical complexities of aircraft design. I also like working with different people across the organisation.

What would you say to young women thinking about choosing a career in engineering?

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 male-dominated industry and I’ve always found my male colleagues to be supportive and respectful. I have never felt that being a woman has disadvantaged me or held me back as I’ve developed over the last 25 years.

Ayrshire College Ambassador, Yvonne Neil



Variety is key ingredient in the hospitality industry

Ayrshire College graduate Evan Samson describes how his passion for the hospitality industry led to managing the Dumfries Arms Hotel in Cumnock.

What made you decide to study HNC Hospitality?

I started studying accountancy, but decided that it wasn’t for me. While I was working in a hotel to fund my studies I discovered that I really enjoyed working in the hospitality industry, so I changed course and chose hospitality as a career.

Why did you choose Ayrshire College?

Ayrshire College is local to me, but a big part of my decision to study here was that the college’s hospitality department had a great reputation with well-equipped kitchens and facilities.

As part of the course, I worked at a local Ayrshire hotel on work experience. The placement was really valuable as it helped me get a flavour of the different aspects of working in a hotel which added to the experience I already had. I enjoyed helping other students with questions as I had a different perspective given that I was already working in the hospitality industry.

Tell us about your job at the Dumfries Arms Hotel

The experience of studying while continuing to work part time in a hotel really helped me reach where I am today. It opened my eyes to all aspects of the job, giving me a better understanding of what is involved in the hospitality industry.

I have been the General Manager at the Dumfries Arms Hotel in Cumnock for the last few years and I love every aspect of my job. Whether that is managing front-of-house or overseeing events, I get to meet so many different kinds of people and no two days are the same.

I’m constantly working with the other staff to build up the reputation of the Dumfries Arms and, with another 5 star hotel opening in Ayrshire in 2015 as part of the hotel group, I’m looking forward to working on that project too.

Ayrshire College Ambassador, Evan Samson


Passion and hard work led to dream job

Ayrshire College graduate Kirsty McLean, who works on the production of BBC shows like The One Show, talks about the importance of her time at college.

Before you came to college what were you doing?

I had a misfire start at another college doing social sciences which wasn’t really for me!

What made you apply for the HNC Media Analysis and Production course?

I’ve always wanted to work in film and television and I decided to follow my heart and make a go of it.

Tell us about your learning experience

Ayrshire College set me in great stead for obtaining my dream job. All of my lecturers were incredibly helpful and encouraging of everyone on my course. They really believed in every student and did their upmost at helping them achieve their potential.

The course covered a broad range of subjects covering all aspects of the media. I found this very helpful in helping me whittle down what it was that I wanted to do – whether it was camera work, management, film editing, radio or scriptwriting.

What was you most memorable moment at college?

I had a great time making my end of year project. I shot a brief history documentary and involved a local re-enactment group that I knew. I achieved some incredible shots and had a ball making it.

What did you do after college?

I went to Glasgow Caledonian University to study a BA (Hons) Media and Communication.

Tell us about your job at the BBC

I currently work in Production Management at BBC Television in Glasgow. I am based in the Factual Arts department where I make all kinds of forms of art documentaries – from short One Show VTs about Elton John to 90 minute high arts documentaries on the history of still life painting. I have also been incredibly lucky to be involved in some big events like the Olympic Games, T in the Park, the Commonwealth Games and Hogmanay.

I was aware from very early on that I wanted to work for a public broadcaster and had my eyes set on the BBC. In my fourth year at university I applied to be part of a talent scheme (Production Talent Pool) with the BBC. It’s a very competitive scheme but a fast track into life in television. The recruitment process took about four months and involved eight stages. I was lucky enough to get a place on this scheme and I landed my dream job before I graduated from university!

How did college help prepare you for this job?

College really kicked my dedication into gear. It re-affirmed my passion for the arts and made it clear in my mind that is what I wanted to do. I studied hard, which helped me get into a good university and get the ball rolling on my career.

Any advice to our new students?

Be dedicated in what you want to do. If it is truly where your heart lies, and you put in the work, you’ll get to where you want to be. Television is a notoriously hard nut to crack and I was consistently told ‘people don’t make it into TV’, but I figured that someone has to do it and I remained dedicated. Be passionate and work hard and the rest will come.

I would also say that experience is crucial, so make the most of you time at college and do any work experience that you can.

Have you got your dream job?

Absolutely – sometimes I look about and I can’t quite believe I’m here!

IMG_0017.JPGAyrshire College Ambassador, Kirsty McLean