New Campus Countdown: Focus on Engineering

Inspiring the engineers of tomorrow

We are continuing our countdown to the official opening of our new campus in Kilmarnock’s Hill Street. After last month’s focus on the Construction Technology and Trades sector we turn our attention to the Engineering and Science curriculum.


Engineering in a nutshell

We spoke to Alastair Heron, Head of Engineering and Science, and Ged Freel, Curriculum Manager for Engineering and Science, at the College to find out how they were feeling about the big move, how several innovative initiatives are shaping the future of engineering and science at Ayrshire College and how the new campus can introduce our students to a more modern world of studying.

The Engineering and Science department sits within the STEM directorate in the College. Courses include Aeronautical, Manufacturing, Fabrication and Welding and Electrical Engineering and are carried out at our three main campuses.

A list of all Engineering related courses can be found at

There are a range of exciting jobs open to students within the Engineering sector including machinists, CNC machinists, fabrication, welding, electrical maintenance and mechanical maintenance.

To get far within the industry, Ged believes that students need to work hard and be committed. He said: “We are looking for positive minded students who are enthusiastic, hardworking, have a good attitude, a good timekeeping and attendance record, and a good skills set.

The main skills set they require to succeed within this industry are excellent hand skills, good communication, team working and effective problem solving.”

Modern Apprenticeships

Alastair expressed the importance of modern apprenticeships to the department and explained how the College supports them.

He said: “Over the last two academic years 120 students have been placed in apprenticeships with our partners. This continues to improve our great relations with local employers and improve the skills gaps between the College and local businesses.”


Engineering Academy

Alastair also told us about the innovative Strathclyde Engineering Academy which the College is a partner in.

“The Engineering Academy is a widening access initiative run by Strathclyde University in partnership. The academy is for school leavers with 4 B’s (which include Maths and Physics) to apply for entry to a range of engineering degree programmes. Entry to engineering at university normally requires 4 A’s and 1 B, or 5 A’s.

Students who enrol in the Engineering Academy will attend the College for the first year to study an HNC qualification before joining second year of a Strathclyde University degree programme. Students are also offered paid summer work placements throughout the duration of their time on the programme.”

You can find out more about the Engineering Academy at

Ayrshire Futures
The department are always looking at new ways in which they can ready students for the future. As part of this they have introduced Ayrshire Futures (Engineering) to help prepare the working relations between secondary school establishments and the College.

Ged explained: “Ayrshire Futures (Engineering) is a way for colleges and schools to work closer together throughout the school year to give school pupils the knowledge required and taster sessions to allow them to make more informed decisions about coming to college as part of their school year.

As well as school pupils attending taster sessions at the college, staff from the college also attend school assembly’s to update them with the latest information about the scheme.

This initiative is based in North Ayrshire but is starting to be rolled out to East Ayrshire and is an exciting initiative for students.”


Golden Partnerships
A key objective of the Engineering department is to forge successful partnerships with the local industries of Ayrshire. This not only helps our students during their studies but helps consolidate the College’s position as a key contributor to the local community.

Ged said: “The engineering and science department are constantly forging new relationships with employers and training organisations. We are currently building a successful relationship with RAF mostly at our Ayr Campus because of the equipment we have there. We would encourage any employer no matter their size or how many staff they employ to contact us if they want to get involved and feel like they can help our students broaden their experience and use the transferable skills they have learnt here at college.”

If you wish to contact Ged Freel or Alastair Heron please email or

New Kilmarnock Campus
Both Ged and Alastair are excited about the new opportunities which will be open to students in 10 months’ time. Ged said: “The new campus will inspire our students with brand new equipment like fitting, welding and electrical installation workshops and allow them a chance to study in a modern engineering environment.”

Alastair added: “Students will also have access to good travel links to get to and from college. They will also be able to use brand new facilities such as a new restaurant, salon, gym and fitness centre.”

For all the latest information on our new campus development in Kilmarnock click here:

‘The Engineering of Today’
Keeping the spotlight firmly focused on our Engineering department at the College as we countdown to the new Kilmarnock Campus, we also spoke to a leading employer in the engineering sector to gather their thoughts on what the new build will bring to the industry and the local community.

Stephen Holland is the Business Development Manager at Smillie & Cuthbertson Gas Engineering Limited who are based in Kilmarnock.

Smillie & Cuthbertson Gas Engineering Limited rebranded as S+C Engineering in 2012 to celebrate their 65th year in business. They provide a wide range of services to every industry including Energy, Local Authority, Environmental and Agriculture.
Stephen took some time out of his busy schedule to answer our quick fire Q&A.

What are the range of jobs within this sector?
There are a broad spectrum of jobs open to people in the engineering industry from Research and Development roles right through to Sales Engineers.

Is it growing?
Yes. There are always new opportunities available with changing trends in developing sectors such as the Environmental field and Renewables.

What are the main skills set needed for jobs within this sector?
I would say the main skills set needed for a job within this sector is flexibility and a desire for continuous learning.

What are you looking for in employees?
I am looking for someone with a genuine desire to learn.

How can the new college facilities benefit your organisation in terms of training and development?

I think the new college facilities can cultivate an attention to detail and a willingness to training and development. They can also help students accept critical feedback to support a continuous improvement mind-set.

Do you employ any Modern Apprenticeships?
We do. We currently employ 3 modern apprentices working with us, with a fourth just completed.

What are the biggest changes within your company in the last few years?
The Biggest changes we have faced in the last few years are the need to continually and quickly adapt to customer needs just to survive. This is a very challenging but exciting industry to be a part of.

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