First experience of working in a design team

Some of our graphic design students had a very productive Easter holiday.

Kyle Lotter and Rebecca Kirkwood volunteered for a week’s work experience with the College marketing team. We caught up with them at the end of the week to hear about their first experience of working in a design team.

KYLE LOTTERIMG_8262HND Visual Communications student

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in South Africa and moved to Scotland when I was nine. I live in Galston and went to Loudoun Academy. My favourite subjects at school were art and graphic communications. Although I achieved good exam results, I did not feel ready to go to university. I had thought about studying architecture, but decided to go to college first and learn new creative skills. I started at NC level and I have worked my way up to HND level.

How are you enjoying studying HND Visual Communications?

I have enjoyed my course and I am learning new skills all the time. A highlight of the course for me has been working on live briefs. One brief was a competition to design a poster for alcohol awareness – I won this competition and I was very proud of my achievement. The other brief was to design a Christmas story book for an event at Culzean Castle and one of my illustrations was selected.

Why did you volunteer for this work placement and what have you been working on?

We have had a few offers of work placement but this one appealed to me because it was working with the College design team. I have had a busy week with a variety of different projects to work on including: a funding leaflet, web banner and flier to promote the student digital insights survey, an infographic, resizing images for the website and I designed two pages of the Student Voice magazine.

What have you learned from the experience?

I have definitely got more confident in my ability. I had a big workload and I just went for it. The graphic designers have been great and given me lots of constructive feedback. I have found in this team there is always someone that will help you. I have learned the importance the College places on social media as a way of communicating. I attended two team meetings and have been surprised by the volume and breadth of the work the design team are tasked with. I did not expect this from an in-house design team. I have been amazed by how fast my week has gone. There are less distractions in the workplace – everyone is very focused and just gets on with the work.

What are the next steps for you? 

I am designing a survival kit for a monster from space – it’s a fun project that allows us to be really creative. We will then be preparing for the end of year show and we’re all looking forward to getting to that point! I will be looking for more work experience opportunities in the summer – perhaps working in a local design agency and comparing it to this placement. These experiences will help my CV and help me stand out from other students. After the summer I will be going to either Glasgow Caledonian University or the University of the West of Scotland.

REBECCA KIRKWOODRebecca.JPGHND Visual Communications student

Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Maybole and before coming to college I went to Carrick Academy. I studied graphic communications, art and music and so I considered various creative courses before I finally settled on Visual Communications. It is a mixture of graphic design and art and I like how the course has a qualification at the end of each year. If I had changed my mind and wanted to do another course it would not have been a waste of a year.

How are you enjoying studying HND Visual Communications?

I am really enjoying the course especially illustration, printmaking and web design as I had not done these before. The highlights of the course have been a trip to Kelvingrove Art Gallery to see the Mucha exhibition and working on live briefs. I enjoyed the Culzean Castle Christmas story book brief and also we were asked to design a logo for ‘Hit the Bard.’

What have you been working on during your work placement?

I have been designing three pages of the Student Voice magazine. I have been sourcing images for some of the courses at the College and doing some logo research to create a mood board for a new brand.

What have you learned from the experience?

I have learned that you need to work quickly. There is no time to sketch out ideas in your sketchbook – you’ve got to go straight on to the computer and work up your ideas. I think that’s the main difference between the classroom and the workplace – I have been used to working on a design for a few weeks and here, it is expected the work will be ready in a few days. I have also learned more about using Adobe InDesign. These are skills you learn by practising and getting hints and tips from other users. I also watch free short courses on the Adobe website and online tutorials from YouTube. I have learned a lot this week because I have been using InDesign all the time.

What are the next steps for you? 

I will be working really hard to complete my course. I need to get a ‘B’ grade as I have a conditional acceptance for the University of Edinburgh’s BA Graphic Design course, which is a direct entry to the second year. I am really looking forward to moving to Edinburgh, it will be a really exciting time in my life. There is a massive art and design building with old printing presses and camera equipment – this really appealed to me and I just liked the whole atmosphere when I went on a tour of the campus. In the summer I will also be working on developing my design portfolio which I am creating on Wix. I will also be looking for more work experience as I have enjoyed my time with Ayrshire College.

Are you interested in becoming a graphic designer? Take a look at our HNC Visual Communications course here.

Making Modern Apprenticeships accessible to all young people

kaheadshot2Kirsteen Allison
is an equalities adviser at Skills Development Scotland where she leads on disability. Her role is to tackle under representation in Modern Apprenticeships and training.

As we start to prepare for Scottish Apprenticeship Week in March, we asked Kirsteen to write a guest post on the importance of ensuring that all young people have access to apprenticeships.

I have a number of disabilities. I am hearing impaired and visually impaired. My speech is also slightly affected by my hearing impairment. Having these disabilities means I bring the perspective of a disabled person to my role.

I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to persuade employers to recruit disabled people. I know how insensitive, ignorant and discriminative people can be. I know how hard it can be to ‘fit in’ to a new workplace.

A young disabled person leaving school, entering the world of work for the first time, is particularly vulnerable. They are unlikely to have any experience of applying for jobs or a job interview, so encountering an employer who has concerns about what support they may need, can be frightening and make the young person more inclined to ‘stick’ to a similar environment to school, such as college.

At that young age, they may have received no information on the support available in the world of work, what their rights are, and what the wide range of post school options are.

I had several part time jobs whilst at school and at university. However, it wasn’t until I graduated with my postgraduate diploma and got my first ‘real’ job at the age of 23 (in the same company I work for today) that I had any idea of Access to Work. This is a fund that can contribute towards the cost of any reasonable adjustments in the workplace.

This fund pays for my communication support to help me hear in meetings and equipment to help me hear on the phone. It enables me to do my job and do it well. If I had known about this sooner, it would have avoided many uncomfortable interview situations and misunderstandings in previous employment.

Take my first interview, after achieving my degree and before my postgraduate diploma. It got off to a bad start with the interviewer declaring “oh, you don’t look deaf!” If anyone knows how I should look, please tell me!

He then proceeded to ask me how much it would ‘cost’ his company to hire me. I was taken aback and unable to answer him properly. I did not know he was referring to my disabilities and the potential cost of supporting me. Furthermore, I had no idea how much it would ‘cost’ the company for support – how could I know?

I didn’t know what equipment or support was available to me, nor was I aware of Access to Work. Clearly the employer was not aware either, nor was he aware of the Disability Discrimination Act (as it was at that time) which would have prevented him from asking such questions.

So, what I try to do in my current role is inform young people, parents and teachers of the range of opportunities available after school and raise their awareness of Access to Work funding and other support that is available to them in the world of work. We’ve updated our websites with information on post-school options and videos of disabled young people undertaking a variety of apprenticeships.

We try to ensure that apprenticeships and training opportunities are as accessible as possible by proving training providers with equality training and resources on how to ensure they are recruiting diversely. We established the ASN Access Fund to fund reasonable adjustments on Employability Fund programmes. We have also been trying to challenge misconceptions about recruiting a disabled person.

We are having some good success.

Last year, one particular employer was concerned that it would be too dangerous to recruit a disabled person to an engineering apprenticeship. After speaking to myself, my colleagues and some disability organisations, they have now recruited a physically disabled apprentice.

However, we have a long way to go before we change the perceptions of every employer and indeed every disabled young person who may be thinking the world of work is not for them. We are always keen to hear from employers, disability organisations and disabled people on the work we are doing and answer any questions they may have.

Want to know more?

You can contact Kirsteen at For more information on Modern Apprenticeships, visit

Developing OUR young workforce with Modern Apprentices

MAsThe Scottish Government aims to support 30,000 Modern Apprenticeship starts per year by 2020 as part of its Developing the Young Workforce youth employment strategy. Last year 1,980 people started an apprenticeship in Ayrshire – but there is potential for much more.

Ayrshire College, East, North and South Ayrshire Councils, and the Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire regional group are working together to encourage more employers to invest in young talent through Modern Apprenticeships.

Gillian Brown, HR Manager, explains how recruiting two Modern Apprentices will enhance our teams and support the development of the College’s young workforce.

Ayrshire College is all about supporting the development of young talent in Ayrshire. We do this by providing industry relevant courses and work experience opportunities with employers across Ayrshire that help young people start their careers. We are now investing in our own young workforce by employing two new Modern Apprentices.

We are looking for one apprentice to join our marketing team to help with digital marketing, and another to join the ICT team to help with our network technical support service. We need young people who are confident using, and excited about exploring, new technology.

For us, the main benefits of investing in Modern Apprentices is that young people bring fresh ideas, enthusiasm and different perspective to an organisation, which helps us be more innovative.

For the young person, there are many benefits gained by following this career path. They will learn from experienced people around them and gain industry relevant qualifications, so that when they have completed their Modern Apprenticeship they have the skills and experience required for a job in our organisation.

Ayrshire College is a great place to work. We are one of the largest employers in Ayrshire and apprentices will gain experience of working in teams with a diverse range of people – inside and outwith the College.

In return, we are looking for young people who have a great work ethic, a positive attitude and can demonstrate they have initiative.

These Modern Apprenticeships are ideal for young people who are just leaving school or college. You will benefit from work-based training as well as national qualifications awarded. We want people to apply for these posts who are ambitious and keen to start a successful career in digital marketing or ICT.

Please share this post with your network and help us promote these fantastic Modern Apprenticeship opportunities. Full information on each post and application forms are available here. Don’t delay, the closing date for both posts is 12 noon on Friday 13 May.

Want to find out more about Modern Apprenticeships

Read Why we think Modern Apprenticeships are great

If you are interested in recruiting a Modern Apprentice or supporting an existing employee go through an apprenticeship, we might be able to help. Go to our website for more information.


Introducing Foundation Apprenticeships

Ayrshire school pupils now have the opportunity to apply for a brand new work-based qualification while still at school. Jane Henderson, Developing the Young Workforce Manager at Ayrshire College, explains what these new qualifications are all about.

What is a Foundation Apprenticeship?

A Foundation Apprenticeship is a great opportunity for senior school pupils to learn in college and in the workplace over two years while they are still at school. They have been designed to be challenging and exciting for pupils. A big part of the challenge is the independence the pupil has travelling to college and completing the course while they are taking other subjects at school.

Probably the biggest challenge though is actually completing the work-based learning, but this is what makes the Foundation Apprenticeship so distinctive and attractive.

Who can do a Foundation Apprenticeship?

Foundation Apprenticeships are aimed at all school pupils across Ayrshire to offer them valuable industry recognised vocational qualification with relevant work experience before they leave school. Although a pupil can start a Foundation Apprenticeship in S4 and complete it by the end of S5, many pupils will opt to do it over S5 and S6.

How does the course work?

Foundation Apprenticeships are held at college two afternoons a week during school hours. They are counted as one of the pupil’s subjects in their school timetable. Each Foundation Apprenticeship is different, for example Social Services (Children and Young People) in year one will have 4 hours of college per week and ten days out at placement in total. In year two, they have ten hours per week in a work placement.

The second year of each Foundation Apprenticeship has more work placement hours than the first, to enable the pupil to gain as much experience with an employer as possible. There is lots of support for pupils when they are out in a work placement. For example, workplace assessors will visit frequently to make sure everything is going well and there will be a buddy or a mentor in the workplace specifically to support the pupil as they learn.

What is the link with employers?

Employers are very involved in Foundation Apprenticeships. Each pupil will spend time in work placements with companies in the industry sector relevant to the course. The employer will engage with pupils and see first-hand how committed, skilled and motivated they are.

Foundation Apprenticeships are a great step towards reducing the gap between education and employment. Employers get to be a part of developing the young workforce in Ayrshire before they even leave school.

What makes a Foundation Apprenticeship different from other college courses available to pupils while at school?

A Foundation Apprenticeship is a two year course and a large part is a practical work placement in a company. Most other courses that school pupils can take at college last for one year and they are taught in the college only. When they finish the Foundation Apprenticeship, pupils are awarded an industry recognised qualification. This prepares them well for applying for a relevant Modern Apprenticeship when they leave school.

How does a Foundation Apprenticeship differ from a Modern Apprenticeship?

A Modern Apprenticeship can only be taken when the pupil has left school and is in a job. It is  different in that a person is employed as an apprentice for a company and learns on the job. A Foundation Apprenticeship provides a pupil with the foundational elements of a Modern Apprenticeship.

What are some of the benefits of completing a Foundation Apprenticeship?

One of the biggest issues young people face when they leave school is not having work experience. Pupils gain a lot of experience from work placements and are exposed to the world of work and employer expectations.

The opportunity of completing a Foundation Apprenticeship could launch a young person into a career path that could lead them to take additional college courses, a Modern Apprenticeship, university courses or a job when they leave school.

What Foundation Apprenticeships can be taken at Ayrshire College?

We are offering three Foundation Apprenticeships in: 

  • Information Technology (Software Development)
  • Social Services (Children and Young People) 
  • Engineering. 

Each course is at SCQF level 6 and is a two year commitment.

Where can I find out more information?

Check out our website for more information



Ayrshire College is committed to tackling gender stereotyping in career and learning choices. Here is a summary of some of our recent work on this and what’s coming next.

During Scottish Apprentice Week 2016 we featured stories on our blog from female apprentices working in Ayrshire. We are sure that their stories will inspire other young people to consider a career in engineering and science.


On International Women’s Day 2016, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP visited Ayrshire College to launch the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan film. The video was the brainchild of the college’s inspirational Student President Angela Alexander, and features 22 female students and apprentices forging careers in science, technology and engineering.

Today is the start of British Science Week which runs from 11-20 March. It’s an exciting programme of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) events and activities across the UK for people of all ages.

British Science Week provides another great platform to raise awareness of exciting careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and a great opportunity to launch our newest campaign – #WhatIActuallyDo.

Meagan Forrest 3

Supported by funding from the Skills Development Scotland’s Equality Challenge Fund, the #WhatIActuallyDo campaign aims to improve the perception of careers in STEM by school pupils. We aim to dispel myths about what jobs in the industry actually are and raise the aspirations of young women to seek apprenticeships within the sector.

We’ve been working with employers to showcase young female apprentices and find out what they actually do in their jobs. We’ve created ‘a day in the life’ videos of apprentices from Spirit Aerosystems, Hyspec Engineering, Woodward and Ryanair – as well as interviews and blog posts giving us an insight into why they chose this career and what they love about their job as well as their hopes for the future.

You can access all of these videos here:

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP on #ThisAyrshireGirlCan

On International Women’s Day 2016 the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, visited the Kilwinning Campus of Ayrshire College to launch the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan film. The video was the brainchild of the college’s inspirational Student President, Angela Alexander, and features 22 female students and apprentices forging careers in science, technology and engineering.

Here is what the First Minister said to the 100 Ayrshire primary and secondary school pupils and students who attended the film premiere.

It’s fantastic to join so many other Ayrshire girls to celebrate International Women’s Day, and to launch this hugely worthwhile initiative.

And thanks also to Abbie and Adele, for providing such great role models of young women in science. There are many others. Last year’s modern apprentice of the year for the whole of Scotland was Laura Black, who is an engineer for BAE systems on the Clyde. 12 of the 18 Science Festivals in Scotland are run by women. I’m fortunate enough to meet excellent female apprentices, researchers, employees and managers on visits to colleges, universities and factories across Scotland. 

They follow a distinguished history of women in science in Scotland. You might have seen that the Royal Bank of Scotland recently decided to put Mary Somerville on its new £10 banknotes. She was a nineteenth century astronomer from Jedburgh, whose work was very influential in leading to the discovery of planet Neptune. She now has a crater on the moon named after her.

But despite that history, and the many modern examples and role models we see in Scotland, women are still seriously underrepresented in science and engineering. For example in Engineering and Energy related modern apprenticeships last year, 96% of new starts were male.

That’s not a reflection of any lack of talent or ability. It’s a reflection of the fact that there are incredibly talented and resourceful girls and young women who for some reason – whether it’s the advice they receive, the stereotypes they see in the media, or the role models they have available to them – decide not to choose subjects and careers they’re very well suited to.

That limits their opportunities as individuals. And it also holds Scotland back as a nation.

It’s worth thinking about some of the work in Scotland which depends on science, technology, engineering or maths. The engineering work required to complete the new Queensferry Crossing over the Forth; the research taking place into offshore wind, wave and tidal power in Scotland; the developments in life sciences being pioneered in educational research facilities and in manufacturing plants; the work of our digital media and hi-tech companies.  

The people who are working on those projects are boosting our economic growth, and they’re also making a big difference to people’s quality of life.

For example I visited the Glaxosmithkline plant at Irvine two weeks ago. The expansion of the facility there will apparently enable them to produce antibiotics for an additional 100 million patients every year. Being involved in that, or in energy research, or in manufacturing, is an incredibly worthwhile thing to be doing.

So we need many more talented people to go into these areas in the future.

And we want half of them to be young women. Scotland won’t be as successful as it can be, if we continue to underuse the talent and potential of half of our population.

That’s why the Scottish Government has supported the Careerwise programme – which encourages women to take up modern apprenticeships in careers related to science, technology, engineering and maths, and which offers female undergraduates high quality work placements.

It’s also why tackling gender segregation is an important part of our implementation plan for developing Scotland’s young workforce.

And it’s why I’m delighted to support this initiative. No girl in Ayrshire – or anywhere else – should be put off from their ambitions by preconceived ideas.

It’s important that everyone understands that you can study science, technology, engineering and maths. You can take up jobs in in medical research, energy or aeronautics, and in digital media. For science and for engineering – as for any area in life – if you have the ability, and if you work hard enough, you can achieve your dreams.

And by doing that, you can have a great career, and you can make a positive difference to the world around you.

That’s the message that this video is designed to put across. It’s one which is well worth supporting. So I commend Ayrshire College for launching this initiative. And I wish all of you all the best for the future.  

Watch the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan video

Who can be an engineer? This Ayrshire Girl Can!

For International Women’s Day, vice principal Jackie Galbraith talks about the efforts being made by Ayrshire College and the Ayrshire College Student Association to tackle gender imbalance in areas like engineering.

One hundred years ago this month, during the First World War, Glasgow munitions worker Jeannie Riley wrote to her husband who was stationed in France. In her letter she said:

“I am still sticking in at my work. I will be an engineer before long. There are 25 more women coming in on Monday and we were told that the amount of work we do in three weeks would have taken the men three years.” Sadly, Jeannie would not have had the chance to become an engineer – the jobs carried out by women during the war went back to the men when they returned.

Changes in society, medicine and technology in the UK over the past century have benefited women enormously. However, the proportion of women in the engineering workforce has not kept up with developments elsewhere. The 2015 IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) annual skills survey showed that just 9% of the engineering workforce is female, and only 6% of registered engineers and technicians are women.

Despite the heritage of women like Jeannie who broke into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) during and following the war, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe.  And, while opportunities in engineering are growing, there is not a corresponding increase in the take-up by women.

I wonder what Jeannie would have thought about this?

Across the UK, companies are crying out for engineers – 64% of engineering employers say a shortage of engineers is a threat to their business. The average age of an engineer is 54 and there are not enough young people studying engineering to fill the projected growth in jobs. So, the industry is in real trouble if it continues to fail to attract young people, and young women in particular.

Some engineering companies are making concerted efforts to attract more young people and to address gender imbalance. On a recent visit to Spirit Aerosystems to meet third-year engineering apprentice Anna Manson, we were greeted with a poster which neatly summed up the company’s commitment to this. – Building bodies. Shaping Minds.

Spirit is focused on ‘equipping young people with the skills necessary to be successful’ because ‘the young minds we help shape today are the body builders of the future.’ This simple statement captures very well what developing the young workforce is all about.

Ayrshire has a higher proportion of manufacturing jobs than the Scottish average, which means that there continues to be great opportunities in engineering for young people in sectors like aerospace and life science.

Each year, throughout the year, Ayrshire College takes every opportunity to stimulate young people’s interest in STEM courses and careers, and to highlight and celebrate the contribution of girls and women in STEM. Last month, for example, we hosted a very successful Girls into STEM workshop for second year schoolgirls in East Ayrshire secondary schools.

This week, our Student Association is launching a film to mark the one-year anniversary of its #ThisAyrshireGirlCan campaign. The campaign celebrates women studying towards careers which are traditionally dominated by men such as engineering, technology and trades. It aims to address gender imbalance in these areas and show that if this Ayrshire girl can, any girl can!

During Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016, the college launched a series of videos of young women working in engineering and manufacturing companies across Ayrshire, featuring apprentices like Anna Manson below. These apprentices describe what they actually do in the workplace and what motivated them to choose STEM as a career.

Have a look at the videos at

Research carried out by Olivia Jones at the National Centre for Universities and Business shows that young women don’t have an innate dislike for engineering. She found that when you emphasise the creative, people-based, problem-solving and environmental aspects of engineering girls start to see the appeal. Olivia said:

“We have to talk to girls about engineering honestly and in a way that they conveys how relevant and exciting it actually is. When girls are presented with real women who are engineers they can see that engineering doesn’t need to be dressed up to be interesting and that engineers are normal men and women who they can relate to.

I have no doubt that girls (and boys) will relate to the young women in the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan film produced by our Student Association and in the #WhatIActuallyDo videos created by the college. The female engineering apprentices featured in our blog back up Olivia’s research.

Who knows, if Jeannie Riley had lived in this century she might have ended up an engineering apprentice like Anna!


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.

Guest post – Business owner Wendy Pring on why would you want to develop a young person?

Wendy Pring is a Chartered Civil Engineer by trade. Before forming KCP in 2003, which she runs with her husband Karl, Wendy was an engineering manager for FCC Environment with experience in programming and logistics of their waste management activities.

Wendy is heavily involved the promotion of STEM subjects in education, taking an active role in the local schools, college and community to promote this. She is especially passionate about encouraging girls to consider STEM subjects as a career.

KCP is a leading material transfer and waste management solutions company. KCP uses a fleet of specially adapted vehicles and equipment to service clients across the anaerobic digestion, landfill, industrial, farming, food and drink sectors.

In this guest post for Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016, Wendy explains why it pays to invest in the young workforce.

  It’s Scottish Modern Apprentice Week, established to raise the profile of a currently underutilised demographic.

What does the phrase apprenticeship mean to us nowadays? To many of us we possibly think of YTS schemes, for others it is a worthwhile route to a trade and a career. These views are generational to some extent and represent the changes in economics, employment and politics.

All current research identifies huge shortfalls in all manner of STEM related careers, as well as a greater want to increase the employment of young people. In Scotland, information about Modern Apprentices (MA) can be accessed via Skills Development Scotland (SDS). Funding for an MA can also be accessed from SDS or via your local authority Economic Development Department.

For us, we identified the need for an MA late last year. I am also a member of the steering group of Developing Young Workforce Ayrshire, and increasing MA starts across the region is a KPI for this group. 

So, what were we as a company looking for? We wanted a young person who would firstly have a can-do, positive attitude and secondly fit in with rest of the team.

For a small or micro business (SME), there is always a worry of how can I manage someone and how can I find the time to train them. This is always an obstacle, regardless of the outcome which everyone hopes is a full-time permanent position in the company. This can be a blocker for an SME as it’s a promise that is harder to fulfil. But this does not need to be the case.

For others it is a logistical issue. This affects us, we are four miles from the nearest town and not on a bus route, so there was another challenge – how would a new apprentice get to us? 

But recent conversations identified that sometimes larger companies have similar problems. The intake of MAs to some larger SMEs and corporates is well established and provides well executed programs. Micro businesses should also be considering this approach and aiming to use these opportunities to contribute to employment. Anyone with children will appreciate the potential abilities in young people, especially in digital applications.

 A lot of SMEs will berate the availability of good skilled labour. This is an opportunity to help and prepare a young person, to train them in the way you like it done, for them to encourage and establish strong relationships with other members of your team, and hopefully create a viable role for themselves in the process.

Modern Apprentices go to college and there is ongoing assistance and support from the relevant government organisations. Speak to local organisations, we dealt with Yipworld in identifying local young people. We knew distance would be an issue and we really did have to concentrate on local knowledge and support networks for our young employees.

Modern Apprentices are not a source of cheap labour, they are an investment in the growth and sustainability of your business. Will it be hard – not necessarily. It won’t be easy but a statistic highlighted at the first Responsible Business Forum last week is that 82% of businesses in Scotland are micro SMEs – that is a lot of extra places!

Will everyone have a successful journey?

Will every MA have a permanent position after they complete their training?

Will all MAs be equipped with the right skills at the beginning?

None of these outcomes are guaranteed. But if we don’t try we won’t know!

Meet the apprentice – Kirsty Harvey, Woodward

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

Four 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.

Today we present Kirsty Harvey, who is an apprentice with Woodward.

Kirsty Harvey 1

When Kirsty was at school, she didn’t know what she wanted to do.

Once she left, she started working as an outdoor activities instructor teaching children how to climb and abseil, but she quickly got to a point where she wasn’t happy in her job.

“That’s when I decided to go back to education and do something mechanical” Kirsty explains.

“The workings of things like cars and motorbikes really interested me. Then, when I was at college, the opportunity came up to do a work experience at Woodward. I jumped at the chance of it. I went there for two days and thoroughly enjoyed it, so when I got offered the apprenticeship I accepted straight away.”

Kirsty started at Ayrshire College on a Performing Engineering Operations course, where she covered things like hand skills and programming. Picking up new skills was a major plus point for Kirsty when looking at apprenticeship options.

She said “I like the fact that, as an apprentice, you’re always learning as you work. Personally, I’m not great at sitting in a classroom. I like the fact that I’m earning good money while I’m in a learning environment.”

Every Tuesday Kirsty comes to the college’s Kilmarnock campus as part of her HNC Mechanical Engineering course. The rest of the time is spent at Woodward in Prestwick.

Kirsty said “It’s good having a mix of work and college. I’m in with other apprentices who work with different employers so it’s good to see what they’re getting up to.

“At work I like being in the workshop where we strip down the controls and rebuild them again. Sometimes we have investigations on them if something’s gone wrong while they’ve been on wing. If they’re in for a repair they’ll be tested on the test stand before they come to the workshop.

Kirsty Harvey 2

“Once they come there we’ll strip them down, clean the parts and assess what’s wrong. Then we’ll build them back up again. They’ll always go back on the test stand before they go back to the customers.

“It’s quite strange knowing that what you’re working on is going to be used on an aeroplane – and you might be on that aeroplane! But I definitely get satisfaction from that.”