Apprenticeships key to developing Ayrshire’s young workforce 

It’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016 – a nationwide campaign celebrating apprenticeships. At Ayrshire College, we promote apprentices throughout the year by featuring case studies on our website, our blog and our e-zines. Scottish Apprenticeship Week is another opportunity to demonstrate the rewards of taking on an apprentice to companies who haven’t yet done so. 

Vice principal Jackie Galbraith describes our commitment to apprenticeships and highlights what you can look forward to throughout the week.

 Last year, we demonstrated our commitment to Developing the Young Workforce by continuing to stimulate demand amongst employers and increase our support for Modern Apprenticeships (MAs). 

A total of 805 MAs undertook training at the college in 2014-15; 507 through our contract with Skills Development Scotland (SDS), and 298 sub-contracted by industry bodies like the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). Most of the apprenticeships we support are in engineering and construction. Nine out of every ten of our apprentices are aged between 16 and 24, and over 80 percent are undertaking Level 3 apprenticeships. The number of new MAs we started in 2014-15 was up 14 percent on the previous year – a sign that employers are willing to take on apprentices if they are relevant, high quality and fulfil a business need.  

In May 2015, Education Scotland carried out a review of off-the-job training for engineering Modern Apprentices supported by Ayrshire College. They awarded grades for six high-level questions on the themes of outcomes and impact; service delivery; and leadership and quality culture. We were awarded four Excellent and two Very Good grades for the high quality of our apprenticeship delivery. About the success rate if apprentices, the report stated:

“In most areas, rates are significantly higher than the national average of 75%, and withdrawal rates are very low. Progression by apprentices onto level 3 programmes (on-the-job training) is 100%, with attainment rates of 86% for completed MAs.”

This high quality also applies to our delivery of the education component of the MAs we train for industry bodies. For example, according to the CITB, while the average performance rating for providers delivering CITB Apprentice Programmes is 75%, Ayrshire College’s performance rating is 92.3%. 

High quality STEM apprenticeships, and vocational courses at school, college and university are vital to the ambitions of the recently published manufacturing action plan, A Manufacturing Future for Scotland.

We have a great week of activity lined up for Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016 including –

  • New video case studies of apprentices in companies like Spirit Aerosystems, Hyspec Engineering, Woodward and GSK
  • Daily posts on our blog highlighting how apprentices are supporting industry sectors central to Ayrshire’s economy
  • Guest blog posts from STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith and Skills Development Scotland’s Equality Adviser Emma Bolger 

During this year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week we are focusing on three themes –

  1. Tackling gender imbalance in Modern Apprenticeships
  2. Making your business our business
  3. Developing the young workforce in Ayrshire.

    Tackling gender imbalance in Modern Apprenticeships 

    One of the key objectives in our Strategic Plan is to challenge gender stereotyping in career and learning choices, an ambition set out in more detail in our Outcome Agreement for 2015-16. Our commitment to this was acknowledged by Education Scotland which said “the college is taking positive action to address the need to recruit more females into engineering apprenticeship programmes and is involved in a number of initiatives to progress this.”

    In 2015, I was a member of the Scottish Funding Council’s gender steering group, which contributed to the interim Gender Action Plan for colleges and universities, published on 22 February 2016. The Scottish Government has invested £1.5 million over two years to enable the Scottish Funding Council to pursue a range of enhanced opportunities for young people, including a programme of equality projects. Supported by the funding, we have planned a range of activity which we will update you on throughout the year via our blog and other media. 

    Last year, SDS published an Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland to improve the participation of under-represented groups. As part of this, they introduced an Equality Challenge Fund aimed at innovative projects to get more young people from under-represented groups onto Modern Apprenticeships. A project led by Ayrshire College aims to change perceptions about engineering and ICT amongst young women. On Tuesday Willie Mackie, the Chair of the college, will visit apprentice Anna Manson at Spirit Aerosystems with Emma Bolger from SDS to launch our new video series funded by the Equality Challenge Fund. Look out for Anna’s video and Emma’s guest post on our blog this week. 

      Making YOUR business our business

      In partnership with the Ayrshire Engineering Alliance, we are hosting a skills conference for employers on Thursday to demonstrate how the college makes it our business to support the skills needs of employers.

       Also on Thursday, college Chair Willie Mackie will become an apprentice for a day – an aeronautical apprentice in the morning and a hospitality apprentice in the afternoon. You can find out how Willie got on in our blog on Friday.

      Throughout the week, college staff will be supporting a range of events across the region organised by East, North and South Ayrshire councils. 

      Fittingly, Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016 rounds off in Ayrshire at a business conference hosted by Team North Ayrshire and at the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner. The college is a strategic partner in each of these important employer networks, and we are working hard to support the skills needs of the hundreds of businesses which will participate in these events.

      Developing Ayrshire’s young workforce

      Last year, we worked with Skills Development Scotland to pilot an engineering foundation apprenticeship and you can read about the experience of one of these senior phase pupils on our blog. As part of our programme of high quality vocational provision for senior phase pupils, we will be offering a range of Foundation Apprenticeships to young people in Ayrshire’s secondary schools from August.

      Vocational qualifications are richer when they are accompanied with high quality, relevant work experience. The DYW Ayrshire regional group was launched in October to improve the relationship between schools and employers, and equip young people with the skills and attitudes to help businesses prosper.

      The college is an important partner in the DYW Ayrshire group. The Chair of the group is industry leader and college board member Jim English, who is General Manager at Hyspec Engineering, and I have the privilege of being Vice Chair. Jim’s commitment to developing his company’s young workforce is demonstrated in one of our new videos which features one of Hyspec’s apprentices, Megan. 

      Finally, as one of Ayrshire’s largest employers, we at the college also want to invest in our young workforce and we will be recruiting two apprentices in the next few weeks – one in ICT, the other in digital marketing. These are fantastic opportunities for young people in Ayrshire and we will share their apprenticeship journey on our blog throughout the year.  


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