Meet the apprentice – Tammy Niven, GSK

Tammy Niven is a manufacturing apprentice at GSK in Irvine and currently attends college five days a week to study an HNC in manufacturing. She will be onsite at GSK in June.

What made you apply for your apprenticeship?

Well, in fifth year at school I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I saw the GSK apprenticeships advertised and they were really appealing to me. As I looked into it, manufacturing was the field that looked right for me so I applied for that. It’s ideal as you’re still furthering your education as well.

A manufacturing apprenticeship at GSK is much more than working on a production line, which is what made it so attractive to me. You’re part of a really important process.

Why’s Ayrshire College a right fit for you?

Ayrshire College is easily accessible and the lecturers are great, there’s a great sense of community. The lecturers want to help you because everyone’s got a common goal in wanting to pass their courses. If you need help you just ask and they’ll help you.

How are you finding the course at Ayrshire College?

I’m really enjoying the course especially physics, although it is really hard, but I think the challenge is what I like about it.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My plans for the future are that I definitely want to stay with GSK because it’s such a massive successful company. I’ll complete my manufacturing course and hopefully complete my apprenticeship and get a job at the end of it.

What are your most looking forward to about coming to GSK?

I’m looking forward to the hands-on work at GSK because I’ve not had much taste of that so far. We do practical stuff at the College but it will be great to find out what they actually do at GSK, so I’m looking forward to that.

Brian Surgenor, Training Manager at GSK, explained why apprentices are so important for the company.

Why are apprentices important for GSK?

It gives youngsters a good breeding into the industry and brings apprentices on. We bring them in, we train them up to our standards on our systems and our safety, and we can then plan for the future by slotting them into jobs once jobs become available.

How do you tailor the apprenticeships to get the best out of them?

It’s a three year apprenticeship, so we send our apprentices to the College for the first year to do their HNC. Then we bring them into day release for City and Guilds, and then do process and safety training. After the three years they’re actually ready to slot into a job if there’s a job available for them.

How do you monitor the progress of your apprentices?

We go the College every four weeks to get a progress report. If there are any problems with anything at all, the College contacts us and we set up meetings.

How is the relationship with Ayrshire College?

The direct link is really important, because we get a heads-up straight away if there’s a problem with anything. We’re developing a good relationship with the College as they give us really good feedback which helps us plan for the future.

What are the plans going forward for GSK?

We’ve got 37 apprentices on the plant at the moment, and we’ve just started 3 who start college in September and another 7 starting in the plant. And we’re taking on another three next year. So it’s pretty rosy here – we’re looking to take apprentices on every year if we can.

Hear more from Tammy and Brian in this video.


Meet the apprentice – Emma Tait, Cecchini’s restaurant

Yesterday, we brought you up to date with our Trump Turnberry apprentices. Today, we’re keeping it in the kitchen as we bring you the latest from Cecchini’s apprentice Emma Tait.

Emma Tait works at Cecchini's Ardrossan restaurant

Emma Tait works at Cecchini’s Ardrossan restaurant

Emma is coming to the end of her second year as an apprentice where she has been coming to the College on a day release basis. She recognises the importance of college-based learning, as it presents the opportunity to test her skills on dishes that are not on the menu at Cecchini’s.

She said “Our menu at the restaurant is big, but we don’t get whole fish bought in for example. So, at college I can fillet a whole salmon and that’s a skill I can take away and bring in here.”

Obviously, she’s thrilled to be in the kitchen at the restaurant too. She said “It gives me the experience and the knowledge of working in a professional kitchen, rather than just going to college. It’s a very, very high pressure environment in the restaurant kitchen – not an easy job at all. But if you love what you do, you learn to cope and the staff here help you along the way.”

Speaking of the staff, boss Anthony Cecchini, who has restaurants in Ayr and Prestwick as well as the Ardrossan site that Emma predominantly works in, highly rates the apprenticeship route. He said “Obviously you’ve got to start somewhere and that’s where I started – in the kitchen. I think it’s a brilliant industry to be in and, for apprentices who come on board, the skills they learn can take them all around the world if they wish.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic that Emma goes to college. I did that years and years ago. It was a great base for training to come into the workplace. To do your apprenticeship side-by-side, workplace and college, it’s tremendous.”

With Emma approaching the third year of her apprenticeship, Anthony summed up the progress she has made during her time at Cecchini’s. “The improvement’s been vast, absolutely brilliant. Emma’s very dedicated and works every weekend. She works hard and will do anything she’s asked to do, which is brilliant.”

To hear more from Emma and Cecchini’s Managing Director Anthony Cecchini watch the video.


Hairdressing apprentices a cut above the rest

Becoming a hairdresser nowadays requires more than just an ability to cut hair. You need to be able to style, you need to be able to colour and you need to be able to communicate.

The importance of that final point is evident straight away when speaking to the employers of hairdressing apprentices Jacqui Dunlop and Shannon McClue.

Jacqui Dunlop works in Ayr at Susanna's Salon.

Jacqui Dunlop works in Ayr at Susanna’s Salon

Susanna Ross owns Susanna’s Salon in Ayr and, when asked what qualities she looks for in a member of staff, she immediately spoke about the need for prospective employees to not be shy.

She said “They need to be able to use their technical ability in the salon but also their confidence. They need to have the gift of the gab because they need to communicate with clients. If you go and have your hair done, there’s nothing worse than somebody not speaking to you.”

It was the first thing Marlene Lamont, owner of Urban Hair in Cumnock, spoke about too.

Shannon McClue works at Urban Hair in Cumnock

Marlene said “I would apprentices really need to have good communication skills, definitely. In saying that, once they start to get confident they become more open. So some come in shy but as they develop their skills they come on.”
Apprentices Jacqui and Shannon both appeared confident when we visited them and saw them working on their clients.
However, Shannon echoed her boss’s thoughts on growing into the role. She said, “Starting my apprenticeship, I was really shy and quite nervous, but after working with the public for quite a while has definitely brought my confidence out.”

Shannon has always wanted to do hairdressing because she is interested in “arty stuff”. Marlene agrees that an artistic talent is also an important quality to have.

“I think you need a wee bit of art in you. A lot of people think ‘I’ll just be a hairdresser’ but it’s not as easy as that. Artistic skills comes in handy.”

Meanwhile, Susanna invited a couple of young hopefuls in on a trial basis to ensure she was getting her ideal candidate when she was thinking about hiring an apprentice. Eventually she chose Jacqui because she is genuinely enthuastic about what she does.

Jacqui said: “Being able to change somebody – the way they look and the way they feel is great. It’s a great feeling.”

Both owners are delighted with the standard of apprentice they have taken on, and both appear committed to taking on more apprentices over the coming years.

Marlene, of Urban Hair said: “My young ones are coming in as apprentices and they’re fabulous, they really are.

“I think if the employer takes the time to teach them properly and doesn’t treat them like people who are just there to wash hair, then they can develop their skills and their personal development. I think apprenticeships are a great idea – I think they’re brilliant.”

To hear more from Jacqui and Shannon, and their employers, watch the videos below.





Coming up trumps with an apprenticeship at Turnberry

During Scottish Apprenticeship Week last year, we published a blog about a group of eight Modern Apprentices who had been recruited by Trump Turnberry (the company took on another two during the year). A year on, we look at their progress and hear from Executive Chef Munur Kara and award-winning apprentice Paul Tyrrell.

Some of the apprentices and junior chefs went on to have great success at the 2015 ScotHot Awards – Scotland’s biggest hospitality, tourism, and food and drink show with competitors come from all over the country. There were gold awards for Rury Patterson and Steve Walker, silver for Paul Tyrrell, Scott Jacket and Robert McCurdie, with Charlie Dedman, Leigh McGill, Andrew Mackay and Paul Tyrrell (scooping his second prize) receiving bronze.

ScotHot 2015 - Turnberry

Trump Turnberry apprentices celebrate their outstanding achievements at ScotHot 2015

The College’s work-based assessor,  Joanne Martin said “The apprentices’ fantastic success was down to their commitment and drive to do well. I witnessed them coming in on their days off to practise their dishes and looking to their senior chefs for guidance, support and feedback – which they received in abundance. Each individual chef was encouraged from the outset to give it their all – which they did – and it paid off!”

Munur Kara is the Executive Chef at Trump Turnberry and explained the rationale for taking on apprentice chefs. He said: “When we hire apprentices, we always plan their future so that they’ve got a good three to four years career-wise lined up at Trump Turnberry. Ayrshire College has given our apprentices tasks that they have to follow. With the staffing levels that we’ve got here, this is a good help for me as it’s an extra pair of hands in getting the apprentices through the experience and the knowledge that they need to have to go to the next level.”

One of the apprentices, Paul Tyrrell, already had experience of working in London under Heston Blumenthal before he came to Ayrshire College. Although he already possessed that experience, Paul understood the benefits of going through an apprenticeship as he bids to make his way to the very top.

He said: “You can go into restaurants, hotels and any catering establishment, and learn the hands-on way of doing things. But you also need to know the theory behind the practical work and I think you get that through being an apprentice. It’s all very well being a good cook but, later on in life when you do move up the ranks, you need to know the theory side as well as the practical side. It’s very important to know both.”

Munur Kara said, “Paul’s moved on really well and adapted to busy restaurants and hotels, adapting his style when pressure’s on. He can command, and when there’s work to be done he puts his head down and gets the job done.”

“Trump Turnberry plans to carry on down the apprenticeship route. We will keep following on year-on-year. I’m planning on getting some more people on board next year – the conveyor belt will just keep going. As the apprentices come in, they’ll get signed up to Ayrshire College and then they’ll go forward.”

To hear more from Paul and Munur watch this video.


Meet the employer – Wallace McDowall

Over 45 years ago Wallace McDowall was established as a sheet metal fabricator and has grown into one of the UK’s leading sub-contract engineering companies. The company is committed to the continual development of its highly-skilled workforce and investing in new technology.

Wallace McDowall values modern apprenticeships and recruits new apprentices every year. At one point last year, they had 17 apprentices in different roles in the workshop and the office – all but one of them recruited through Ayrshire College. The company recruits apprentices from students who have been on the Performing Engineering Operations course and uses work experience placements as part of recruitment process. Logan Collins, Operations Director at Wallace McDowall, talks about how he works with the College to get the right apprentices for their needs.

Our apprenticeship program is integral to the growth of our business and we are committed to developing our future workforce with the help of Ayrshire College. We believe that by bringing young people in as apprentices, who serve their time here and know the way we work, they will stay with us. We have former apprentices working successfully at all levels of our company including senior management. This year, we’re looking to take on four fabrication apprentices and two machine shop apprentices.

We’ve worked with the College for a while and have a good working relationship with them. We go up to meet them and they come down here to meet us, and we’ve attended various events together. I just pick up the phone to Lynn, the Engineering Curriculum Administrator, tell her what I’m looking for and she’ll put an advert up in the College.

Just last month, she shortlisted ten potential fabrication apprentices and ten potential machine shop apprentices for us. We then shorten it down to around six and arrange to get them in for a work trial. We’ll have them in over three or four weeks before we make a decision. We let students know at the start that this week-long work trial is effectively an interview and that they’ve got a week to impress me. If we get someone we think is brilliant, we will offer them a job straight away. We’ve done that in the past.

There’s investment in it as well, we’ve got to invest in taking on an apprentice. They’re not going to be contributing too much for the first six or seven months but we’re fortunate that we’ve chosen good groups of apprentices. I’m seeing an improvement in the apprentices we have. We’ve got one guy who has finished his apprenticeship in that he’s submitted his portfolio, everything’s been passed and he’s got his certificate. Although he’s in the process of finishing his HNC, we’ve already promoted him to a shift leader based on what he’s done with us!

I think the College prepares students for work a lot better than in the past and they listen well to our feedback. We had a problem a few years ago where we were getting potential welders who didn’t have experience of the type of welding that they were coming in here to do. That’s no longer an issue as students are getting shown what’s expected and that makes a big difference.

So, what does it feel like to be an apprentice at Wallace McDowall? Twenty year old Carra Woods is an apprentice fabricator and welder and tells us about her experience.

When the apprenticeship vacancy came up, I applied for it through the College because I did my SVQ Level 2 there. I’m in the first year of my apprenticeship and come to college every Tuesday for my day release. During the four days in the workshop, it’s constant work – we’re building everything! We don’t get to do all the jobs because we’re still learning. But we get a shot at most jobs!

I don’t really learn well from sitting down with a book. I’m more of a practical person and an apprenticeship just felt right. It’s good to have a mixture of the college and the workplace, balancing theory with practical skills. Having to communicate and work with others is very important in the workshop. You’ve got to work with your workmates when you’re doing a job, you can’t just decide you want to do things your way, it’s a team effort.

I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship – it’s great to work, earn and learn at the same time.