Guest post – Ayrshire business leader Alison Somerville on apprenticeships

Alison Somerville As a college we place a great deal of importance on establishing productive and sustainable relationships with local employers, particularly when it comes to supporting our apprentices. We are therefore delighted to welcome Alison Somerville to our blog. Alison Somerville is Managing Director of Dustacco Engineering Ltd and Watermiser Ltd, both well-established engineering companies based in Newmilns in East Ayrshire.

Alison is on the employer-led Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Ayrshire Steering Group. DYW Ayrshire was established in October 2015 to improve links between education and employers to support young people towards employment. Alison has agreed to share her thoughts with our readers for Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016. She explains why she is involved in DYW Ayrshire, and how her companies are providing opportunities for our students.

For a long time now, Dustacco has brought apprentices in and through the business. We really value what young people bring to the organisation.

It’s imperative that we plan for the future. Whether we like it or not, everyone is getting older so it’s important that we bring young people in and transfer valuable practical skills to them. Otherwise we may not have enough skilled workers to carry out the work.

So, bringing young people in is a win-win. It helps us create a sustainable future for the business, and also engages young people into work – hopefully into a fulfilling and rewarding future, and lifelong career.

We have the ‘Investors in People’ accreditation and successfully attained the ‘Investors in Young People’ standard in February last year. So, we were an early adopter of this fantastic approach which helps to align business processes to supporting young people into work.

I am on the Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire Steering Group and I also try to do what I can on the STEM agenda. Albeit this all needs to be shoe-horned into a busy ‘regular’ work schedule too, so it’s a matter of prioritising and doing what we can as a business.

We’ve developed really strong links with the Kilmarnock campus of Ayrshire College and we work with their engineering department to undertake work experience for young people. This lets them get a taste of the work environment before committing to taking on a full apprenticeship. It’s a good opportunity for both parties to see if it’s going to work out.

Right now we have four Modern Apprentices in our business, all at different stages in welding and fabrication. Just shortly, we will be bringing more young people in for Watermiser as we are looking for one or two apprentices to train as Laminators and Welder/Fabricators.

I recognise that as a female in a predominantly male world, I can also play a part in showing females their value in ALL disciplines and subject areas.

I believe that some parents and maybe even some teachers can be somewhat gender biased when helping young people to find career paths, and it’s important to show that taking the path of least resistance might not always be what’s best.

Diversity is good and it’s great to see females in construction and engineering but we ALL need to play a part in opening young female minds to the idea that they could make a big difference in these areas.

Watch this video where Alison talks more about the benefits of working with Ayrshire College and introduces us to one of Dustacco’s apprentices

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