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.”

Re-visit the apprentice – Jack Lynes, Billy Bowie Tankers

For Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2015, we dropped into Billy Bowie Tankers in Kilmarnock to catch up with apprentice, Jack Lynes and Fleet Operations Manager, Douglas Bowie.

Jack’s interview was part of a series of video case studies that we produced to showcase the talents of Ayrshire College apprentices in a range of sectors.

Over the course of this year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week, we’ll be re-publishing a selection of those interviews and catching up with the apprentices to see how they have progressed.

Original interview published on 19 May 2015


19-year-old Jack Lynes is coming to the end of his first year as an apprentice at Billy Bowie Tankers in Kilmarnock. He currently attends Ayrshire College’s Kilmarnock campus on a day release arrangement studying Level 2 Car Mechanics (Heavy).

While he was at Stewarton Academy, Jack knew he wasn’t suited to working in an office environment. He knew he wanted to work with his hands but wasn’t sure about what work he should be doing. So, last year he decided to attend a jobs fair at the Palace Theatre where he gravitated towards the Billy Bowie Tankers stall.

“Once I got talking to the guys from Billy Bowie, I felt this apprenticeship was definitely the right thing for me.” Jack said.

And, for Douglas Bowie, Fleet Operations Manager at Billy Bowie Tankers, the feeling was mutual.

“It was a very straightforward process getting an apprentice. We went to a jobs fair with the idea of wanting an apprentice and that got the wheels running. Jack approached us and said he was unemployed and looking for a start as an apprentice.

“After that, we spoke to the College and East Ayrshire Council and between us we managed to put a package together and offer Jack a job.”

So, what made Jack feel an apprentice was the right route for him to take?

“The apprenticeship’s right for me because it’s the right mix between learning at college and getting the practical experience in the workplace. Some things can go wrong in the workplace and jobs often take longer than they do at college.

“I think the apprenticeship route to reach your goal further on in life is the best way to do it. You’re getting the papers behind you by going to college, and you’re getting the benefit of being in the workplace.”

Jack’s boss Douglas said, “Jack has come on leaps and bounds in his first year. When he first came to us, he could hardly hold a spanner. A year later, we’ve got him working with minimum supervision.”

Jack’s long term ambition is to become the boss of a garage. Perhaps one day we will see Jack Lynes Tankers driving on the streets of Ayrshire! For now, hear more from Jack and his employer in this video.

Update one year on

Jack is still with the company and has ‘come on leaps and bounds’ since last year, according to Douglas Bowie, Fleet Operations Manager. During the year, Billy Bowie Tankers expanded with the arrival of a new apprentice, 17-year-old Dylan Allan who was taken on as a welder. Dylan has made a similarly successful impact halfway through his first year.


Dylan said “The guys here are great to work with. They really know what they’re doing so if you’re ever stuck you just ask. Even Jack, the second year apprentice, is always willing to help.

“I’m at the college one day a week learning the basics, and then putting them into action here the rest of the time. I feel like I’m progressing as I get used to the machines and the equipment. It’s not just welding I’m doing, there are mechanical aspects, so I’m getting a good grasp of everything here.”

Douglas added “No task appears to be a problem for Dylan. Although he obviously still needs guidance, he is a hard worker who does what you require.

“Choosing the right person is a very big consideration when you take on an apprentice. We’re only a small team, just four of us, so anyone who’s brought in needs to be able to gel with them. They have to be a good team player and confident enough to ask questions, and Dylan certainly is.”

Modern Apprenticeships are great!

 Stuart Millar is Director of Education Contracts and Business Development at Ayrshire College, where he leads the college’s work on apprenticeships. In this article, Stuart offers advice to young people (and their parents) wanting to know more about Modern Apprenticeships.

Modern Apprenticeships are great! It’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week and you’ll hear a lot of positive statements like this. But, for some young people making career choices – and their parents – perhaps the question is not just how good are they, but what are they?

When I left school in the 1990s, there was a big push to get more and more young people to go to university. At that time, apprenticeships were seen as a second class option. Now, it is my generation’s children who are making career and education choices, but many young people and their parents know very little about apprenticeships.

I’m fortunate that my job at the college allows me to keep in touch with the range of apprenticeship options that are out there, so hopefully I can help answer a few of the questions you may have.

What is a Modern Apprenticeship?

Well, it’s a job – you need to be in a job to be a Modern Apprentice – a real job that you get paid for. While you’re earning, you’ll also be learning on the job and working towards a qualification.

What kinds of apprenticeships are there?

Since the 1990s when I left school, there are now many more opportunities to get an apprenticeship. In Scotland, the number of apprentices recruited each year will increase from 25,000 to 30,000 in 2020, and more and more companies are recruiting. There are over 80 different types of apprenticeship, so whatever your career choice there is likely to be an apprenticeship in that field. 

What does an apprenticeship cost?

The training and education doesn’t cost you anything. All those fees are covered by Skills Development Scotland. You’ll be earning a wage, but you’ll have to pay travel costs to and from work and college.

Do you go to college?

It depends what apprenticeship you do. For example, in an engineering apprenticeship you will work towards a range of qualifications. Some of these will be delivered at your work, and some will be delivered in the college on day or block release. 

Other apprenticeships like hairdressing or professional cookery could be delivered solely at your workplace. All apprenticeships will have at least one industry recognised qualification, and your skills in IT, literacy, numeracy, working with others and problem solving will be assessed to ensure they meet a minimum standard. 

How long do apprenticeships last?

Again, it depends what apprenticeship you choose. Some apprenticeships can be completed in a year, while an engineering or construction apprenticeship will last up to 4 years. 

How do I get an apprenticeship?

Check the job pages of the local newspaper or recruitment websites, send your CV off to local companies, ask a teacher or careers officer, or ask around with people you know. Some local companies often recruit apprentices from courses at the college, so check our website Ayrshire College website Job Zone. Another useful website is Skills Development Scotland.

What happens after I finish an apprenticeship?

All going according to plan, at the end of your apprenticeship you’ll be skilled in your chosen field, you’ll have your qualification and your apprenticeship certificate, and you’ll have money in the bank instead of a student loan to pay off. 

92% of apprentices who achieve their qualification will stay in work afterwards. Most companies will keep employing their apprentice after they have qualified but, even if they don’t, you’ll have the skills, qualifications and experience to make you very employable. As a fully qualified employee you will no longer be an apprentice, so there’s the possibility of a pay rise too!

So, is an apprenticeship a better option than a college or university course?

Not necessarily, just think of it as a valid alternative. A full-time college or university course is a great option for many people, but not for everyone. 

Apprenticeships are no longer the second class option they were when I was young, and there are more and more opportunities out there. So, when it comes to the time to make career or subject choices, just remember what I said at the start – Modern Apprenticeships are great!


For more information on Modern Apprenticeships supported by Ayrshire College, get in touch with us by email at

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.

Anna Manson4

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.


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.

Anna Manson1

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:

Guest post – Emma Bolger on tackling gender imbalance in Modern Apprenticeships

Emma Bolger is National Training Programmes Equality Adviser at Skills Development Scotland where she focuses on equality in Modern Apprenticeships, particularly for young women.

We asked Emma to tell us a bit about her job. Here’s what she had to say.

My job is to challenge the belief that there are ‘jobs for boys’ or ‘jobs for girls.’ That’s why it is great to be supporting the Equality Challenge Fund project at Ayrshire College – a positive, dynamic and inspiring campaign aimed at increasing the interest of girls and women in science, technology and engineering apprenticeships, and targeting gender balance in these sectors.

Why focus on women?

I am often asked the question ‘Why does the focus always seem to be on women?’ There are three reasons.

First, in relation to gender, certain sectors recruit more men than women and vice versa. The lower take up of roles in some sectors, by either gender, is known as occupational segregation.

Secondly, women take up fewer places on Modern Apprenticeships in sectors in which the greatest investment is made in training (and attract a higher salary on completion) such as engineering, meaning young women receive less government funding when embarking on their career journey.

This is unfair.

Thirdly, the focus is also primarily on women because of another aspect of occupational segregation – the low number of women progressing to senior roles in all sectors.

The good news is the picture is changing.

Our aim is to tackle the gender imbalance in Modern Apprenticeships through work with partners such as colleges. Through positive action projects and awareness raising activity, Skills Development Scotland and partners like Ayrshire College will continue to address lower uptake on national training programmes like apprenticeships and play our part in improving labour market equality.

We want to see a large increase in the number of females applying for and undertaking apprenticeships in traditionally male dominated areas. This is one of the targets in our Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships.

We also hope to increase the number of men taking up careers traditionally considered for women, and welcome other campaigns that Ayrshire College is leading like Men into Care and Man in the Mirror.

Equality Challenge Fund – Ayrshire College videos

Ayrshire College’s Equality Challenge Fund project aims to change perceptions about engineering and ICT amongst young women by raising awareness of the rewarding career options available and what apprentices actually do in the workplace.

The hashtag #WhatIActuallyDo is used to convey a day in the life of a female STEM apprentice. Women and men are seen working in teams together in high quality videos that show careers in STEM to be what they really are – exciting, dynamic and full of opportunity for all.

I was delighted to join Ayrshire College Chair Willie Mackie, Vice Principal Jackie Galbraith and Business Development Director Stuart Millar at Spirit Aerosystems to launch the video series, and to meet Anna Manson, one of the apprentices featured on the videos.

You can watch all of the videos here –

The Ayrshire College Equality Challenge Fund project will be celebrated at a major national event later this year.

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

Guest post – STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith on Scottish Apprenticeship Week

 Grahame Smith is the General Secretary of the STUC, a Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Board Member and the Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) National Group link member for Ayrshire.

In this guest post, Grahame shares his views on the value of apprenticeships to young people, employers and the economy.

From its inception six years ago, Scottish Apprenticeship Week has offered a platform for all those with a shared interest in the success of apprenticeships to celebrate the benefits they bring to individuals, organisations and the Scottish economy.

However, the week has become much more than a just a celebration. It has provided the spark for many young people to consider pursuing a Modern Apprentice (MA) as a meaningful career choice and, for many employers, the catalyst for recruiting an apprentice.

More and more young people are seeing earning and learning as a genuine alternative to continuing in full time study, and more employers are seeing the business benefits of hiring and training apprentices to meet their skills needs.

According to SDS’s apprentice employer survey, 75% of firms believe apprentices improved their productivity; 71 per cent that they improved product service or quality; and 72% that employing apprentices improved morale. 

Across Ayrshire during the last full year (2014-15) there were 1,976 Modern Apprenticeship starts. By 2021, the number of Modern Apprenticeships funded by the Scottish Government through SDS will increase from 25,000 to 30,000 starts each year. The opportunity this offers will only be realised if that commitment is reciprocated by employers and industry partners including, amongst others, colleges and the trade unions.

The task at a local level of encouraging and supporting more employers, particularly small and micro businesses, to engage with our schools and colleges and to take on apprentices has been offered to employer-led regional groups being established across Scotland. A recommendation of the Wood Commission on Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, on which I served, these group are now beginning to emerge. I am excited by the enthusiasm and commitment of the new DYW Ayrshire group and look forward to supporting its efforts in my role as both the DYW National Group link member for Ayrshire and a member of the SDS Board.  

A key challenge for all committed to MAs is to increase access to apprenticeship opportunities. In December 2015, SDS launched its Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland. This five-year plan sets out the action SDS and partner organisations will take to address gender imbalances in the MA programme, as well as the low numbers of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds or with disabilities or leaving care starting an apprenticeship.

Redressing gender imbalances in apprenticeships, for example females in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) related jobs, is part of the plan. This, amongst other things, will be supported by SDS’s Equality Challenge Fund. The fund is aimed at innovative projects involving equality partners, charities, colleges, training providers and employers to get more young people from under-represented groups onto Modern Apprenticeships.

These projects are already having an impact across the country.

One, led by Ayrshire College, is changing perceptions about engineering and ICT among young women. There are rewarding careers to be found in both industries, so it’s no exaggeration to say that this project could be life-changing for the young women participating and crucial to the future of companies in these sectors currently struggling to find the skilled workers they need.

An MA is often a young person’s first real experience of the workplace and it is essential that it’s a positive one. That’s not just about the quality of the training. It is also about the quality of the workplace environment, and the terms and conditions under which they are expected to work. Some apprenticeship pay rates are unacceptably low and with travel and other costs to consider, a prospective apprentice might be turned off from a work-based training opportunity that otherwise would benefit them, the employer and our economy.      

Ultimately, it’s down to employers to play their part. Many do and the support is there from SDS, from Ayrshire College and from the DYW Ayrshire group being managed by the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce to help many more. They have to provide the opportunities and, in return, they will get motivated young people with new ideas, enthusiasm and the talent they need to help them realise their business ambitions.  

Apprenticeships key to developing Ayrshire’s young workforce 

It’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016 – a nationwide campaign celebrating apprenticeships. At Ayrshire College, we promote apprentices throughout the year by featuring case studies on our website, our blog and our e-zines. Scottish Apprenticeship Week is another opportunity to demonstrate the rewards of taking on an apprentice to companies who haven’t yet done so. 

Vice principal Jackie Galbraith describes our commitment to apprenticeships and highlights what you can look forward to throughout the week.

 Last year, we demonstrated our commitment to Developing the Young Workforce by continuing to stimulate demand amongst employers and increase our support for Modern Apprenticeships (MAs). 

A total of 805 MAs undertook training at the college in 2014-15; 507 through our contract with Skills Development Scotland (SDS), and 298 sub-contracted by industry bodies like the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). Most of the apprenticeships we support are in engineering and construction. Nine out of every ten of our apprentices are aged between 16 and 24, and over 80 percent are undertaking Level 3 apprenticeships. The number of new MAs we started in 2014-15 was up 14 percent on the previous year – a sign that employers are willing to take on apprentices if they are relevant, high quality and fulfil a business need.  

In May 2015, Education Scotland carried out a review of off-the-job training for engineering Modern Apprentices supported by Ayrshire College. They awarded grades for six high-level questions on the themes of outcomes and impact; service delivery; and leadership and quality culture. We were awarded four Excellent and two Very Good grades for the high quality of our apprenticeship delivery. About the success rate if apprentices, the report stated:

“In most areas, rates are significantly higher than the national average of 75%, and withdrawal rates are very low. Progression by apprentices onto level 3 programmes (on-the-job training) is 100%, with attainment rates of 86% for completed MAs.”

This high quality also applies to our delivery of the education component of the MAs we train for industry bodies. For example, according to the CITB, while the average performance rating for providers delivering CITB Apprentice Programmes is 75%, Ayrshire College’s performance rating is 92.3%. 

High quality STEM apprenticeships, and vocational courses at school, college and university are vital to the ambitions of the recently published manufacturing action plan, A Manufacturing Future for Scotland.

We have a great week of activity lined up for Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016 including –

  • New video case studies of apprentices in companies like Spirit Aerosystems, Hyspec Engineering, Woodward and GSK
  • Daily posts on our blog highlighting how apprentices are supporting industry sectors central to Ayrshire’s economy
  • Guest blog posts from STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith and Skills Development Scotland’s Equality Adviser Emma Bolger 

During this year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week we are focusing on three themes –

  1. Tackling gender imbalance in Modern Apprenticeships
  2. Making your business our business
  3. Developing the young workforce in Ayrshire.

    Tackling gender imbalance in Modern Apprenticeships 

    One of the key objectives in our Strategic Plan is to challenge gender stereotyping in career and learning choices, an ambition set out in more detail in our Outcome Agreement for 2015-16. Our commitment to this was acknowledged by Education Scotland which said “the college is taking positive action to address the need to recruit more females into engineering apprenticeship programmes and is involved in a number of initiatives to progress this.”

    In 2015, I was a member of the Scottish Funding Council’s gender steering group, which contributed to the interim Gender Action Plan for colleges and universities, published on 22 February 2016. The Scottish Government has invested £1.5 million over two years to enable the Scottish Funding Council to pursue a range of enhanced opportunities for young people, including a programme of equality projects. Supported by the funding, we have planned a range of activity which we will update you on throughout the year via our blog and other media. 

    Last year, SDS published an Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland to improve the participation of under-represented groups. As part of this, they introduced an Equality Challenge Fund aimed at innovative projects to get more young people from under-represented groups onto Modern Apprenticeships. A project led by Ayrshire College aims to change perceptions about engineering and ICT amongst young women. On Tuesday Willie Mackie, the Chair of the college, will visit apprentice Anna Manson at Spirit Aerosystems with Emma Bolger from SDS to launch our new video series funded by the Equality Challenge Fund. Look out for Anna’s video and Emma’s guest post on our blog this week. 

      Making YOUR business our business

      In partnership with the Ayrshire Engineering Alliance, we are hosting a skills conference for employers on Thursday to demonstrate how the college makes it our business to support the skills needs of employers.

       Also on Thursday, college Chair Willie Mackie will become an apprentice for a day – an aeronautical apprentice in the morning and a hospitality apprentice in the afternoon. You can find out how Willie got on in our blog on Friday.

      Throughout the week, college staff will be supporting a range of events across the region organised by East, North and South Ayrshire councils. 

      Fittingly, Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2016 rounds off in Ayrshire at a business conference hosted by Team North Ayrshire and at the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner. The college is a strategic partner in each of these important employer networks, and we are working hard to support the skills needs of the hundreds of businesses which will participate in these events.

      Developing Ayrshire’s young workforce

      Last year, we worked with Skills Development Scotland to pilot an engineering foundation apprenticeship and you can read about the experience of one of these senior phase pupils on our blog. As part of our programme of high quality vocational provision for senior phase pupils, we will be offering a range of Foundation Apprenticeships to young people in Ayrshire’s secondary schools from August.

      Vocational qualifications are richer when they are accompanied with high quality, relevant work experience. The DYW Ayrshire regional group was launched in October to improve the relationship between schools and employers, and equip young people with the skills and attitudes to help businesses prosper.

      The college is an important partner in the DYW Ayrshire group. The Chair of the group is industry leader and college board member Jim English, who is General Manager at Hyspec Engineering, and I have the privilege of being Vice Chair. Jim’s commitment to developing his company’s young workforce is demonstrated in one of our new videos which features one of Hyspec’s apprentices, Megan. 

      Finally, as one of Ayrshire’s largest employers, we at the college also want to invest in our young workforce and we will be recruiting two apprentices in the next few weeks – one in ICT, the other in digital marketing. These are fantastic opportunities for young people in Ayrshire and we will share their apprenticeship journey on our blog throughout the year.