Meet the apprentice – Anna Manson, Spirit AeroSystems

We have been catching up with a number of our apprentices to celebrate Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016.

Four female apprentices working in different companies in Ayrshire agreed to be filmed in their workplace to share what attracted them down the apprenticeship route and how they are finding the balance between working on site and studying at Ayrshire College.

First up, we present Anna Manson, an engineering apprentice at Spirit Aerosystems in Prestwick.

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As you were growing up what were your thoughts about a career?

I mostly thought about being an engineer, although at one point I wanted to become a wedding planner which would’ve been a completely different route to go down!

Engineering won in the end, maybe because I come from quite an engineering family. My dad works at Spirit and my uncle is a chemical engineer.

At school it was only really the careers advisor who you would talk over your future with. I have to be honest, it wasn’t great. If you weren’t going to university the school wasn’t really interested. They mainly told me to just apply for university anyway, even if I was applying for apprenticeships. They said there weren’t many apprenticeships going, and applying to university would be a safer bet. I didn’t get any help with my apprenticeship applications.

What was your family’s reaction when you told them you wanted to become an apprentice?

They were helpful and gave me great advice for my applications. My mum was happy, but a bit apprehensive about the thought of me working with all men.

How did you hear about Spirit’s apprenticeships?

I knew about them because my dad works there. A lot of people in my year at school applying for them as well and a number of us were checking for when they came out. I also found that a lot of the apprentices and full-time workers share vacancies on Facebook too.

Out of my year at school, it was only me that got the job!

At what stage did you decide to go for the apprenticeship?

When I left school I knew I didn’t want to go onto university and that I wanted to do an apprenticeship. I left school in sixth year and applied for a couple of apprenticeship programmes. I also applied for a college course as a back-up.

I wanted the hands-on experience. I learn better that way compared to reading through a book. The prospect of a job at the end of it also attracted me.

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This inspiring poster greets Spirit workers as they enter their Prestwick base

How did you feel at the interview stage?

The first thing you do is an aptitude test. There were three papers – a mechanical one, a maths one and a reading one. You sit the three of them and then find out if you have the interview.

For my interview I was given a tap wrench and had to take it apart, name the parts and materials, then put it back together. It’s difficult if someone like the Hulk’s been in just before you and tightened it right up!

They also ask questions and test your product knowledge and what they do here at Spirit.

The aptitude test was scary. The pre-test that they send you by email is a lot harder than the actual aptitude test but on the day the test was fine. Doing it relaxed you for the interview as it wasn’t as hard as you thought it’d be.

What’s your job like?

It’s a lot of hands-on work – drilling, nuts and bolts, lifting, assembling. I also do a bit of riveting in different sections. There are also robot machines that you can use. I prefer the hands-on, dirty work we do compared to the computers and the machines that we use.

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I’m at Spirit five days a week now, as you don’t go to college in the fourth year of your apprenticeship. In first year you’re in college full-time, then in second and third year you’re in college one day a week. In the final year it’s distance learning which is the hardest because you’re used to being in college with your lecturers.

That whole structure of the apprenticeship eases you into being in the workplace full-time.

Once I’ve finished my apprenticeship I’ll be an approved operator. In the future I’d love to be in a position at Spirit where I can travel to different countries.

So, what do I actually do?


Watch how the college is helping Spirit AeroSystems with its skills needs: