Modern Apprentice? You’re hired!

Willie Mackie is chairman of Ayrshire College, and sits on the boards of Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Colleges Scotland and College Development Network. He is also Chair of Taste Ayrshire, a past President of Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and a member of the Ayrshire Economic Partnership.

In our final blog post for Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016, Willie talks about the young apprentices he met during the week and describes his experience of being an apprentice for a day.


The 2016 celebration of Scottish Apprenticeships week is sadly coming to an end, but what a week it has been!

I read many great things about the Modern Apprenticeship programme, but there is no substitute for meeting face to face our inspiring students  who are directly benefiting from this wonderful programme. This week it has been my pleasure to meet 3 apprentices who embody everything that’s great about the MA programme. First I met Anna Manson, a third year apprentice with Spirit Aerosystems based at Prestwick Airport, who is flying the flag for female engineers of the future. I have rarely met such an enthusiastic ambassador for engineering. Great credit is also due to Spirit Aerosystems who are recognising her talents and providing her with a marvellous opportunity to develop her skills.

My next visit was to the College’s Aeronautical Engineering Training Centre to meet Connor Duncan, a first year apprentice also with Spirit, who was to be my mentor in a crash course of basic riveting. Courtesy of Connor’s skill, patience and good humour (and excellent coaching from lecturer John Sloan) I managed to (mostly) get the rivets in the right place. Here was a young man who had commitment emblazoned on his forehead. He told me the MA programme is going to help him on a journey to far-away places. I don’t think he was meaning Glasgow, so good luck to him!

My final visit saw me visiting Cecchini’s Restaurant in Ardrossan to meet Emma Tait, a third year hospitality apprentice. Emma was very busy finishing lunchtime service and preparing for a party of 70 who were arriving shortly. Emma’s dream is to run her own hospitality business one day and, from chatting to her, I see no reason why she will not succeed. We made a flaming (very flaming) brandy and cream sauce – I had slightly smaller eyebrows when we finished up but Emma was in complete control at all times!

The common theme running through all these visits was how the MA experience was not only building relevant skills but also building the confidence and ambition of the students. They were building new social networks in parallel with their on, and off, the job training.

None of this is possible without the proactive input from employers (in this case, Spirit Aerosystems and Cecchini’s) and my thanks go to them for what they are doing to develop the workforce of the future.

My Skills Development Scotland board colleague, Grahame Smith, in his guest blog post at the start of this week, highlighted the growing success of the MA programme and how this is being seen as a real alternative to full time study. My experience this week provided compelling evidence this is most definitely the case.

My final observation is a reflection on the positive collaboration between Ayrshire College, Skills Development Scotland and employers. Get this relationship right – and on the basis of what I have seen this week, we are getting it right – and we are delivering life-changing experiences for our young people. That’s an exciting prospect for the future.

I wish Anna, Connor and Emma every success in their future endeavours.

Roll on Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2017!


You can read more about Anna and Emma by clicking on their names.

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