Meet the Apprentice – Colin McEwan, Woodward Aircraft Engine Systems

To celebrate Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2017, we are introducing a number of students who are at various stages of their apprenticeships.

On Monday we heard from Craig Stobbs of Ayrshire Precision, on Tuesday we introduced you to GE Caledonian Ltd’s Tracey Govan and on Wednesday we met Louis Kerr from Watermiser.

Next up is 18-year-old Colin McEwan from Saltcoats who is in the first year of his apprenticeship with Woodward Aircraft Engine Systems, based in Prestwick.


IMG_7933Woodward Aircraft Engine Systems is an independent designer, manufacturer, and service provider of control solutions for the aerospace and industrial markets.

Colin said “I’m a hands-on kind of person and was always interested in going down the engineering route. I found out about Woodward through a school visit at Ardrossan Academy in fourth year.  I kept in contact and asked if I could arrange some work experience, which I did a few months later.

The week’s work experience was really useful as I received a lot of feedback. The best advice I received about how to get into the engineering industry was to do the Performing Engineering Operations (PEO) course at Ayrshire College.  Just as I was about to finish the PEO course, I contacted Woodward.  As it turned out, I got a trial, then got started as an assembly apprentice and have now been here for 7 months.

At the moment I am getting trained on working the controls, so that means stripping them down and building them back up.  On a typical day, we have a team meeting with the section.  I find out what I’ll be working on and who I’m working with.  I have specific one-to-one training every day and I’ll stay in each section for about 8 weeks, before moving onto the next.  It’s really good training at Woodward as you get the chance to find out about every part of the industry.  In my second year, I’ll be in a more specific section, the first year is more general.

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I would definitely like to stay at Woodward once I complete my apprenticeship and learn as much as I can.  It’s a fairly small company and I’d like to try to develop my skills here.

I love the amount of hands-on work I get to do here, everyone’s great to work with too.  I hope to develop into the engineering side of things in the aviation industry later on, so would go to university, and eventually work my way up in the aviation industry.

10 reasons why you should study Engineering

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1. Solve problems. Engineers encounter a number of complex problems in their daily role, and they are tasked with finding the solutions. Studying engineering will allow you to become the person who designs and builds machines and structures to the best specifications possible.

2. Get your creative juices flowing! Solving these problems relies on a creative mind. Often you will need to think outside the box, so engineering is an excellent career for creative thinkers.

3. Work with talented people. Don’t worry though, you won’t have to fix it all yourself! Engineers often work in teams with like-minded creative thinkers.

4. Make a difference. Solving these solutions often allows cost-effective machines and structures to be created and maintained which benefit communities. You could make a real difference becoming an engineer.

5. It’s a hands-on job. An engineer’s working environment is definitely not like an office job. The job itself involves a lot of practical work as engineers design and build things.

6. You can earn decent money. If you are looking for a career that pays well, then engineering is definitely for you. There are many engineering roles out there that pay handsomely!

7. Opportunities to advance. There are plenty of opportunities available out there to climb the engineering career ladder, too.

8. You can travel the world. High quality engineers are always in demand. An engineer’s skills can be utilised all over the world, so you would have no problems finding a job overseas, if that’s your preference.

9. You can earn as you learn. Over 800 apprentices were trained at Ayrshire College in 2014/15, the latest figures available. Why not become one of them and combine your work with studying?

10. Enjoy your work. Engineers absolutely the work they do. Don’t believe us? Then hear directly from our students, who have spoken about their time working as apprentices in GSK, Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance, Spirit Aerosystems, and Woodward.

10 reasons why you should study Construction

 1. The job market is strong. This is a fantastic time to join the construction industry as there is currently a shortage of skilled workers. There is expected to be more vacancies over the coming years, too.

2. New houses are in demand. There is also an increased demand for new build homes. The number of new houses built in recent years has risen dramatically and that won’t slow down any time soon.

3. You can earn as you learn. Over 800 apprentices were trained at Ayrshire College in 2014/15, the latest figures available. Why not become one of them and combine your work with studying?

4. You can earn decent money. The salaries on offer in the construction industry are quite lucrative – particularly once you finish an apprentice, and especially if you…

5. Work your way up. The construction industry provides ample opportunity to progress up the career ladder, if you choose to.

6. Be your own boss. Many construction workers have decided instead to set up their own business. If you’re confident enough to take on the challenge and manage your own workload, then the potential rewards are endless.

7. It’s a fulfilling career. Imagine working on the new £53m Ayrshire College campus in Kilmarnock. Or the new Mangum Leisure Centre opening in Irvine. These buildings will be around for decades, perhaps hundreds of years, and you’ll be able to say ‘I helped create that’.

8. It’s a hands-on job. Speak to someone in construction about their job and they’ll often say they just could not work in an office. This industry is perfect with someone who likes to be on the move and get their hands dirty.

9. You won’t get bored. Working in construction involves working indoors, outdoors, with your hands, with tools, on the ground, high up…I think you get the idea: there is so much variety within the construction industry.

10. You’re able to travel. You won’t be confined to just one place in this job. The skills you will pick up allow you to travel absolutely anywhere in the world.


Find out everything you need to know about our Bricklaying courses by watching this short film, featuring our lecturer Billy Hutchison. Ready to apply? Click here to view our Construction courses on offer for 2016/17.

Jen is our champion!

Jen WilsonHNC Mechanical Engineering student Jennifer Wilson was recently appointed as the Interconnect Scotland Student Champion for Ayrshire College.

Interconnect Scotland is a network for women studying science, engineering, technology (STEM) and the built environment across Scotland. It encourages students to set up their own networks at their college or university.

Interconnect Student Champions are ambassadors for STEM within their college or university, and promote Interconnect activities locally.

Ayrshire Connects is Ayrshire College’s network for female STEM students and it was launched by senior NASA manager Sarah Murray on 13 June 2016. Ayrshire Connects will connect female students studying STEM, construction and trades courses across the College with each other, with students in other colleges and universities, and with inspiring women in industry.

In this article, Jen talks about what motivated her to study engineering and her new role as Interconnect Student Champion.


My interest stems from school

My interest in STEM subjects started when I was a pupil at James Hamilton Academy in Kilmarnock. I leaned towards technical subjects like Graphic Communications and Woodwork; as well as creative subjects like Photography and Art and Design. I am naturally quite a curious person and enjoy finding out how things work. Design and technology are such a huge part of everyday life now from the technology we carry, to how we travel and create entertainment. Studying these subjects made school a very enjoyable experience for me.

I had a fantastic teacher at school who encouraged me to do my best and I left school with three Highers and two Advanced Highers. When it came to choosing a career path, I looked at teaching as the route I wanted to pursue. I started with a Classroom Assistant course and progressed onto HNC Childcare. However, I soon figured out that this wasn’t the course for me and decided to change direction.

After that, I didn’t know what to do. I became the carer for my grandmother for two years, followed by a period of working for William Hill. After a bad day at work I knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do and decided to find a new career path.

Accessing a STEM career

By this point I felt I had been out of education for quite a long time and wanted to take my time getting back into it. I didn’t have the same confidence in myself about studying and needed time to get back into the student mind set and lifestyle. I thought about my interests in technical subjects and decided to take an Access to STEM course at Ayrshire College.

I knew what to expect at college because I had already been in that environment. However, this time was so much better as I felt I was pursuing the right option for me. I had a fantastic class which made going to college a great experience. My class was evenly split with four boys and four girls who were all as interested in the subjects as me, which meant the atmosphere was great in the classroom.

On the Access to STEM course I studied Science, Maths, Chemistry, Physics and English most of which I hadn’t really studied much of before. I would have really enjoyed some work experience and guest speakers during the course, which is now something I am very passionate about making sure others experience. Indeed it is one of the reasons I decided to apply to be the Interconnect Student Champion.

The new me!

So far from my time at College I have increased my confidence, made new friends, narrowed down what I want to do as a career path and eased myself into the student lifestyle. This year I will be studying HNC Mechanical Engineering at and have deferred entry for next year for the University of Glasgow to study Product Design.

We are the champions

I applied to become an Interconnect Scotland Student Champion after attending the launch night of Ayrshire Connects, the College’s new network for female STEM and construction students. After completing an application form, I was invited to an interview over Skype. I was asked to discuss all the things I would do to get the word out about joining Ayrshire Connects and what kind of events I would like to organise to raise awareness of STEM careers for women.

I am very excited to start my new role as Interconnect Student Champion along with my studies this year. I have a huge amount of passion for STEM and want to make a difference for women in STEM. There is, even in 2016, a very low percentage of women who take STEM subjects at school, college and university or work in STEM industries. It can feel very isolating studying technical subjects at school or college with mostly male students. It’s not necessarily the number of men and women in your class, it’s the knowledge that the industry as a whole is male dominated. I want to be able to bring women together to reduce the feeling of being alone in a course or workplace. I want to get them talking about what we can do to make things better for working in these industries and how we can go about getting more women into STEM.

My first gig

I am looking forward to attending the Scottish Funding Council Gender Action Plan conference in August, where I will have the opportunity to hear from the Scottish Government’s Minister for Employability and Training, James Hepburn MSP. I am sharing the platform with our Vice Principal Jackie Galbraith who is speaking about the College’s approach to taking gender out of the equation. It will also be great to hear from City of Glasgow College about their women-only HNC Mechanical Engineering course they delivered last year to find out how effective this has been.

I’m also really excited about promoting Ayrshire Connects to new students at the Freshers’ Fairs on the College’s three campuses in September.

An exciting future

My future plans are expanding everyday now that I feel I have found what I’m good at and what I want to do with my life. One of the maths lecturers at Ayrshire College, Alan Carpenter, really inspired me to go out and get what I want in my career. He took the time to listen to me and get to know my learning style. It’s amazing how easy and fun maths can be when you get to play games and have the maths related to everyday life. I think in the future I would like to be an Engineering Lecturer and inspire others as much as Alan has done for his students. I want to make a difference!

Want to know more?

Interconnect Scotland: http://www.equatescotland.org.uk/interconnect/interconnect-student-network

Ayrshire Connects: http://www1.ayrshire.ac.uk/students/ayrshire-connects/

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Mission Discovery was out of this world

The space dust has now settled on Ayrshire’s first ever Mission Discovery programme and what an event it was.

200 Ayrshire secondary school pupils and college students came together for the week-long space school, where they worked in teams to create space experiments.

Under the guidance of the International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET) team that included former NASA astronaut Michael Foale CBE, they challenged themselves to think creatively and work as part of a cohesive team.

Using our social media content from across the week, here’s a round-up of exactly what happened at Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2016.


Monday

With our teams in place and mentors briefed, ISSET Director Chris Barber got the show on the road at our Ayr campus!

The Mission Discovery Ayrshire participants were split into 24 teams and their first mission was to come up with team names.

We then had the first sighting of our astronaut! Michael Foale CBE, a recently retired veteran of six Space Shuttle missions and extended missions on both Mir and the International Space Station, spoke to the teams about his journeys into space and the importance of communicating with every member of the team.

Monday 3

Suitably inspired, the teams then got to work on designing a ‘Mission Patch’ to go with their team name. A Mission Patch is a symbol that represents a space team and is an integral part of any space mission.

The Ayrshire College Foundation had tasked primary schools across Ayrshire to design the Mission Patch for Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2016, with Mauchline Primary School’s Kaitlyn Lodge designing the pick of the bunch.

Sarah Murray, NASA’s Assistant Chief of EVA, Robotics & Crew Systems, then gave her first presentation to the group on the importance of teamwork and making sure everyone in the team has their voice heard.

In the afternoon the teams were told they would take part in an experiment called ‘The Mars Lander’. This involved using different objects to safely transport an egg from the top of the Riverside Building of the Ayr campus to the ground. Safely of course meaning that the egg was not to smash.

The groups were given an egg, a balloon, one sheet of A4 paper, a pair of scissor and a ruler to make their Mars lander. They could buy further materials but the winners would be the team who spent the least amount of dollars to land their egg, so they couldn’t be reckless.

After creating their Mars landers, there was only one thing left to do. Throw them off the top of a building.

To finish off the day, the teams were shown actual footage of Michael’s time in space as he talked about what makes a great space experiment.

Tuesday

Day two began with a glimpse into how Michael became an astronaut, featuring tales of living in Russia, meeting President Bill Clinton and how to have fun in space.

After hearing about Michael’s time on board the Russian Mir Space Station when an unmanned supply vessel crashed into it – described this week as the ‘worst collision in the history of space flight’ by the BBC – the groups were tasked with writing a short story about the experience.

Tuesday 3

After a few selfies with their new hero Michael Foale, the teams then heard from Dr Julie Keeble, ISSET’s Chief Scientist, who explained the criteria for experiments at the Space Station.

The teams got to work on formulating their experiment ideas – with the assistance of Michael, Julie and Sarah – before hearing Professor Steve Harridge’s presentation on an astronaut’s muscles in space, via Skype.

Wednesday

Halfway through the week now and the teams were hearing all about the International Space Station, where the winning experiment from this week would be carried out by real astronauts. Michael provided the guided tour as he explained where everything was stored, where the astronauts worked out and even how they slept in space. This was followed by a Q&A, surprisingly featuring plenty of questions about going to the toilet in space…

Wednesday 1

At this stage, most of the teams had proposed two or three ideas each, and this was the day that the teams decided on which of their ideas they would be pitching at the end of the week.

After working on their experiments for a while, the teams took part in the Skittles Challenge.

Wednesday 2

This experiment proved the importance that the sense of smell has on taste. Most people were unable to guess which colour of skittle they had in their mouth when they had their eyes shut and their nose pinched. Within a split second of breathing in through their nose though, everyone knew which flavour they had.

A couple of team members who guessed correctly when at their tables were invited to do it again in front of everyone – unfortunately both participants were incorrect when the pressure was on!

Wednesday 3

To conclude the day, the teams broke up into classrooms for the first time to really get to work on their experiments, before joining back together for a showing of One Direction’s Drag Me Down video. Why? Because it was filmed at the Johnson Space Center!

Thursday

The final day before the presentations. But before they all went off to their classrooms, Ayrshire College’s Developing the Young Workforce Project Lead, Kirsty Taylor, spoke to the groups about Foundation Apprenticeships.

A Foundation Apprenticeship is for S5 pupils and gives them the opportunity to learn both at college and in the workplace to achieve an industry recognised vocational qualification alongside their other school subjects.

Thursday 1

Michael then delivered his final presentation – Earth from Space!

Thursday 2

The main part of the day was taken up by working on their experiments. They weren’t completely left to their own devices though – they could ask Michael, Julie or Sarah a question if they were stuck.

Friday

Finally, we were at presentation day.

Teams were divided into rooms where two judges would hear their initial presentations. Once each team had delivered their idea within the 8 minute time limit, the judges deliberating over which six would make it to the final stage.

Team 2 (with their experiment ‘Nanoparticles’), Team 3 (‘Enzyme reaction experiment’), Team 10 (‘Foam to treat internal bleeding’), Team 14 (‘The speed of slime mould on different materials), Team 19 (‘Flatworm freefall’), and Team 23 (‘Investigating Krill in space’) were announced as the finalists.

The final stage involved delivering their presentations in front of the judges again, but also the 23 other teams at Mission Discovery Ayrshire.

Team 10 got us underway, while Team 14 finished.

And it turned out to be a case of saving the best until last as Team 14, made up of James Abbott, Pip Abramson, Laura Borthwick, Dylan Goldie, Robyn McMahon, Jas McNee, Lynne Mitchell, Ania Myskowska, triumphed!

Friday 3

Their idea will go to the International Space Station within the next year.

In a final treat before the Mission Discovery Ayrshire participants finished for the week, another Skype call was made – this time to Jay Honeycutt, the former Director of the Kennedy Space Centre! Jay had been involved in the Moon landing, so obviously the students were keen to ask him questions about that.

Friday 4

After final presentations were made to the mentors who had helped out across the week and to the primary school pupils who had won the design competitions – that was that! Mission Discovery Ayrshire 2016 was over, with ISSET’s Chris Barber declaring it one of the best programmes they have ever been involved in!

Friday 5

 

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Raising the profile of our female engineering apprentices

Ayrshire College supports over 800 apprentices each year, mainly in the STEM sectors of engineering, automotive and construction. National Women in Engineering Day is on Thursday 23 June with a theme of raising profiles. In this blog post we highlight some of our female engineering apprentices.

Raising the profiles of women in traditionally male-dominated occupations is very important in helping young girls imagine themselves in those roles. The following film captures how, early on in their education, children already define career opportunities as male and female.

Probably the best way for young women to decide if a career in engineering is the right one for them is to hear from other young women who have made that choice and are building careers in the sector. Click on the photos below to meet some of our science, technology, engineering and construction students.

Want more? Watch these short films.

Abbie Robb, Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance Ltd 

Anna Manson, Spirit Aerosystems

Kirsty Harvey, Woodward Inc.

Chloe Grieg, GlaxoSmithKline

Tammy Niven, GlaxoSmithKline

Megan Forrest, Hyspec Engineering


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More students benefit from Community Windpower Ltd partnership

On our website, we recently brought you the news that two of our Wind Turbine Technician students had joined Community Windpower Ltd on a two week work placement in Frodsham.

James Seymour and Billy Shearer were interviewed from the many students who had registered their interest in the opportunity. Almost everyone in the class sent in their CVs for consideration – after the placement was heralded as a huge success last year, the first time we’d worked with Community Windpower.

Andrew Brown, one of two students selected in 2015, said “I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Community Windpower. I have learned a lot and I am very sure this will benefit myself for future employment.”

Now that Andrew has finished his studies, he has indeed found employment within the wind energy industry.

So we’ve decided to catch up with James and Billy to find out how they found the placement this year.

Community Windpower Ltd


Billy (right)

I thought it was a great opportunity to get hands-on experience within the renewables industry, and see what goes on behind the scenes. The course we’re doing at Ayrshire College is a lot more maintenance based so I was interested to see how it works as a business, and what goes on behind the maintenance role.

I’ve always been fascinated by the technology. I went up to Whitelees one day through my last job with Scottish Power and as soon as I saw it for myself, I realised what I wanted to do. I wanted to work with these machines and get into the renewables industry.

It’s a job to be proud of, I feel like I’m making a bit of a difference.

So we went away for two weeks, just outside of Chester. The first week I was with the Planning and Development team, where I was in charge of doing a site assessment report. They gave me a location and took me through the process of finding it on the map, putting all the constraints on top of it – the issues and boundaries that they come across – and then I had to report on it. At the end of the two weeks I had to actually present to the team, with the opportunity for it to be turned into a live project.

The second week was with the Operations and Technical team, dealing with SCADA systems. They monitor the windfarm and the turbines, and on a daily basis download all the data from the turbine: how much energy it’s produced, what faults occurred, any downtime on the turbine. They then need to report on that.

We learn a lot about SCADA systems within the College so it was good to get hands-on experience of working with them.

One of the highlights for me was going to one of their windfarms at Dalry. They took us on site and we got into the base of the turbine. We met with some of the techs and the site manager who gave us plenty of advice too.

The experience was totally invaluable.


James (left)

I decided to apply because I was really looking for as much experience as I could get from this industry. I thought if I could get in with Community Windpower, it’d be a good start.

Billy and I swapped during the two weeks, so the first week I was working with the SCADA systems, communicating with the people working with the turbines.

The whole experience was brilliant. You got to see a site from development all the way up to operations. When a site’s actually in operation you then got to see the working of it on a day-to-day basis.

I’d thought about getting into the industry for ages. I’d worked for Motorola in East Kilbride and then when that was closed down, I gave it a lot of thought, but someone talked me out of it. It’s always been at the back of my mind and finally I got back around to it; I’m really enjoying it.

A big thanks to Community Windpower for taking us down, being really accepting of us and helping us out with everything that we were asking. They gave us a great insight into what the industry is like.


Ben Fielding is a Project Manager with Community Windpower, and he has been instrumental in developing the company’s relationship with the College.

Ben said “The placement scheme has been designed to provide the students with invaluable work experience within the industry.

“Ayrshire College and Community Windpower are committed to further student placements.”