Meet the Apprentice – Martin Frew, Wallace McDowall Ltd

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.

Earlier today we heard from Colin McEwan of Woodward Aircraft Engine Systems, next up is Martin Frew from Wallace McDowall Ltd.

Wallace McDowall Ltd, based in Monkton, was established over 47 years ago as a sheet metal fabricator. Over the years, they have grown into one of the UK’s leading sub-contract engineering companies.

Martin, 19 from Kilwinning, is a Welder and Fabricator Apprentice at Wallace McDowall Ltd.


Martin said “I was at college last year doing the Performing Engineering Operations (PEO) course, which was a good head start in this industry.  The course covered a few aspects of the engineering industry, and I got to know what I enjoyed doing the most, which turned out to be welding.

After I had finished the course, I started applying for jobs that were advertised at the College which ended up with me becoming a Welder and Fabricator apprentice.

First thing in the morning, the supervisor gives me a job spec and I just get on with it.  I enjoy being an apprentice. I like being left to myself to get on with the job.  I’m in college one day a week, and the rest of the time I’m working.  I mostly work on my own, but if I need help I can go to supervisors or they’ll talk me through the job.

Getting hands-on experience is definitely the main benefit of being an apprentice.  There’s so many people I work with that can pass on their knowledge or give advice when I need it, so it’s good to have all of that to hand.  For me, it’s an easier way to learn.

Just being able to get my trade papers is great.  I’ve not decided where I want to be when I finish here, but it’ll definitely be a career in welding.”



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.


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.

A day in the life of an apprentice … Part four

In July 2016 Ayrshire College decided to hire modern apprentices in Marketing and ICT. The marketing apprenticeship is funded by the Ayrshire College Foundation.

Eight months into her apprenticeship we asked Catriona Cook, our Digital Marketing Apprentice, to write a diary of her day-to-day tasks to give an insight into what her job involves.

It’s now day four of the series, and Catriona is working on a photo shoot with Guy Hinks visiting Kilwinning and Irvine campuses.


Today I am working alongside photographer Guy Hinks to capture images for some artwork to display around the College. I have been briefed by Lynn, our graphic designer on what kind of images she would like to get from today. Guy and I are going to visit various areas in the College today including, Early Years, Social Science, Environmental Science, Business/Administration, HIVE, Supported Education and Hair, Beauty, Make-Up and Complementary Therapies.

Catriona Part 4

Prior to today, I had to email lecturers to arrange the photo shoot because I had to ensure that the students knew we were coming. I also had to print enough model release forms to give to students so that we have permission to use their photos. Finally, I drew up a timetable for each area. It’s important to stick to a tight schedule to ensure we are able to visit all areas we have in our plan.

I had to think of lots of other things whilst Guy was taking the photos, for example, making sure the working environments were all tidy and that students were wearing appropriate protective clothing for their area. It has been a really busy day, but a great feeling of achievement seeing the end result.

While I’m at the Irvine Campus for the photo shoot, I have arranged a meeting with class rep, Alen McKillop to take a video of him for our #HowToAC video series. For these videos we are asking students to show us how to do some handy things related to their course. For example, we had a motor vehicle student showing us how to check your car oil levels and a care student showing us how to perform CPR. For Alen’s video we are going to do a sport-related video – keep an eye on our social media pages for that!

Tomorrow I am meeting with Gordon Hunt from UWS, who is one of the trustees on the Ayrshire College Foundation. I have prepared some questions and I am going to interview him about his career and why he became a trustee.

International Women’s Day – Let’s celebrate by taking those ideas forward!

Melissa is the Programme Executive for Bridge 2 Business covering Ayrshire College. The programme promotes enterprise and aims to give students the opportunity to develop enterprise skills and to encourage them to start their own business by giving them the necessary tools. Today Melissa is sharing with us how she “fell” into enterprise, how women have inspired her along the way and how with the help of Bridge 2 Business you can turn those little business ideas in your head into reality. 


Eighteen months ago, I sent a text to my friend Christina. That simple text started a series of events that practically changed the course of my life – to be more specific, my career!

One night, as I was perusing my university website, I came across a funding opportunity for projects and couldn’t look away. I couldn’t just close that tab and move over to Netflix. I looked at the announcement for a while and sent a text to my friend telling her about the funding and asking if she would be interested in doing a project together. At that time I did not know what it would be.

Christina and I met up for a coffee, started brainstorming, shaped our abstract ideas into a concrete project and LEVEL-UP! A two-day skills development conference, was born. (This is a very simplified version of the events, believe me there was a lot more planning, hesitations and “why should we do this?” involved.)


LEVEL-UP! 2016 Organising Committee

The conference was a success and last month – one year after the first edition of our conference, a second edition was completed and we sent the papers off to register our company. Oh – and we both got jobs with Bridge 2 Business thanks to the skills we gained by undertaking the project. Which leads me to my next point:

I am an entrepreneur

A fancy word of French origin (at least I think it’s French) that for a long time I could not relate to at all. Mainly because that word seemed so foreign to me and its “sibling” term “businessman” made me think of older men in suits ready to board into the business class of BA flights, so they could get to their next big meeting. However, the reality is very different. What helped me realise this, was seeing the different shapes and forms an entrepreneur can take. They can be any gender, and of all ages. I would never in a million years have seen myself as someone who would own a business with other people or ever think I would be someone that could potentially be her own boss.  (There is still a long way to go until I will be my own boss full-time but at least for some time during the week, I am).

Something that really stuck with me along the way, were the amazing women I have met since starting this adventure. I am not only saying this because it is International Women’s Day and we are supposed to be focusing on the work of women. I have been inspired by so many women and not only by their achievements but by the way they lead their own path, the way they present their ideas, the way they are approachable, friendly and awesome. They helped me think that I could indeed take on any quest and define myself as an entrepreneur.

Anyway. So what? Why would this matter to you?

Well, the first message of Bridge 2 Business is to inspire. Hopefully, with this blog post, you are able to see a different aspect of what it is to be an entrepreneur or to have an entrepreneurial mindset. It doesn’t need to be something big or exceptional, it is mainly about believing in your ideas and putting them into action. Taking those little risks in life that we know will make the big difference. It can also be as simple as a text (and follow-up work – lots of it!).

Action is key. Even if you have no idea where to start or how to do it, taking that one step forward will bring you closer to the goal. So don’t just brush off your ideas or think they are silly. Don’t let hesitations or insecurities prevent you from expressing your ideas.

If you want to read about awesome entrepreneurs around Scotland, have a look at the Bridge 2 Business website.

Bridge 2 Business Banner

Bridge 2 Business is now officially running in Ayrshire College. If you have an idea for a business or want to take on a project, but have no clue how to get started, this is where we can help. We all have to start somewhere and seeking the right support and connections is the first step! 

 If you want to know more about the programme visit our website or contact Melissa directly

An assessor needs to be enthusiastic and motivated for students

During Scottish Apprenticeship Week we thought it would be good to do a series of blogs called, “Meet the Assessor.” These are designed to help employers and apprentices gain an insight into the role of an assessor.

Next in the series is Grace Coughtrie who is a Social Care SVQ Assessor.


Grace Coughtrie Blog Photo

My role is to support and guide students throughout their award by assessing, verifying and observing their work.

I am enthusiastic and motivated to provide a good knowledge and understanding to students, to ensure that the service that is provided to vulnerable individuals within our community is the best it can be.

I have worked full-time within the field of social care in a variety of different roles and sections; from a care worker, to manager, to vocational development officer, and then assessor/verifier for 35 years. Currently, I am an assessor within elderly care, childcare, learning disabilities, and mental health.

I have also been involved in social care inductions for new individuals coming into work within the care sector. This involves the delivery of a variety of different training subjects that are relevant to working within care.

My background in care is what has prepared me with the relevant qualifications, skills and experience to assess awards in social care, as it is essential that all assessors must be competent in the area that they are assessing.

What does an assessor do?

An assessor has two essential roles. One role is more active; which involves asking questions, interacting, giving feedback, and recording. The second role is passive, which involves observing the student during their work.

It is the responsibility of an assessor/verifiers to organise, chair and distribute the minutes of the assessor/verification standardisation meetings for each vocational qualification/work-based award. The purpose of these meetings is to ensure that appropriate assessment materials are available for delivery, to monitor consistency of assessment decisions during delivery, and to review assessment work and delivery.

In my role, I visit a lot of different types of companies. Within the care sector I visit a large variety of organisations in criminal justice, homeless sector, residential for adults, respite for learning disabilities, care homes for adults, independent living, and GP surgeries. The health care sector is even bigger and would be an endless list of companies.

As an example; today I visited a student who works within the community care team that support individuals in their home. I offered my support and guidance in their reflective writing and encouraged them to follow the assessment process.

For a student to be successful in their award in Health and Social Care they would be required to be in permanent employment and working towards achieving an SVQ SCQF Level 6 or SCQF Level 7, which will be dependent on their role within the workplace. They will also be required to complete core skills in numeracy and ICT which they will participate in during college hours.

The assessment does not have to be time-consuming or difficult to complete. It can turn out to be an extremely useful and informative learning experience. So much depends on the assessor. Some advice I can give is if the following points are covered, the worst pitfalls will be overcome.

  • Give clear information to the student on the purpose of assessment and the assessment process.
  • Give clear information on what is being assessed.
  • Allow the student to ask questions and clarify the procedures.
  • Try to put the student at ease – assessment elicits strong emotions.
  • Remain in the background as much as possible.
  • Use language appropriate to the student.
  • Allow the student time to answer any questions fully.
  • Confirm achievement as soon as sufficient evidence is produced.
  • Carry out feedback sessions and encourage the student to discuss their performance and to learn from any mistakes.
  • Complete, sign and date all necessary paperwork to record results of a vocational qualification.

Being an assessor is a rewarding career. Ensuring that the service being provided to vulnerable individuals is the best it can be, is extremely important to the wellbeing of the community. Modern apprentices are vital to the health and care sector. It is also a great career path for a young person who wants to work in the industry.

Why Apprentices are key developing Ayrshires young workforce:

See our blog on 10 Reasons to Study for a Career in Care:

School – College Courses: Early Education and Childcare, Rebecca Nix and Amanda Barr:

Meet the Apprentice – Louis Kerr, Watermiser

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, and yesterday we introduced you to GE Caledonian Ltd’s Tracey Govan.

Next up is 19-year-old Louis Kerr from Newmilns who is in the first year of his apprenticeship with Watermiser, also based in Newmilns.

Louis Kerr.JPG

Watermiser specialises in water cooling solutions and is the sister company of Dustacco. This is the first year Watermiser has hired apprentices – two in total.

Louis said “I saw Watermiser’s advertisement in the College and was encouraged to apply for it. Obviously it’s very handy for me as it’s local, but they are also friendly people to work for. I’m six or seven months into the apprenticeship now and it’s been very good so far.

“My role at Watermiser is to help make the fibreglass cooling towers. I’ve also carried out welding tasks at Dustacco too, which helps with my college work. But I’m mostly at Watermiser.”

Louis is supervised at Watermiser by Alex Jamieson.

Alex is a big believer in the apprenticeship route and is keen to help Louis succeed in every aspect of the job.

He said “We’re all at the learning stage as this is the first year we’ve ever taken apprentices on. We have three other workers here. It did feel like we had no one coming in behind us to learn the business. So we had discussions and came up with the idea of going down the apprenticeship route.

“The type of work we do isn’t very common around here, it’s very specialised. It does take a bit of learning – not many people know what fibreglassing entails. We’ve not really got machines here, everything is done by hand so it’s labour intensive.

“Louis knows all he needs to do is ask if he’s unsure about anything. We tend to have him observe what we’re doing and then give him tasks to complete. An assessor from the College comes in every three months, and in between that we’ll sit down on a one-to-one basis to see how things are progressing as well.”

Louis added “I can see myself doing this for a long time. The aim when I finish my four year apprenticeship will be to make my way up the ladder at Watermiser as far as I can.”

Why you should employ an apprentice

Marketing and PR manager, Shelagh McLachlan has employed a digital marketing apprentice for the first time. Eight months on she reflects on why she recruited an apprentice, how she is helping the apprentice learn and develop, and the difference it’s making to productivity and motivation of the marketing team.


Catriona and Shelagh - Why Employ An Apprentice Blog

Employers – do you have a job vacancy? Why not offer it as an apprenticeship?

If I was a parent whose child was leaving school this year, I would be encouraging them to look for a Modern Apprenticeship. It’s an ideal way to start any career. They learn new skills, gain qualifications, get relevant work experience and get paid. It’s a no brainer! However, an apprenticeship depends on an employer having a vacancy. That’s why I’m taking the opportunity during Scottish Modern Apprenticeship Week, to write this blog aimed at employers – especially those who own a small business, to consider offering new vacancies as an apprenticeship opportunity. I’m doing it and it’s one of the best decisions I have made.

Why should you take on an apprentice?

Perhaps like me you have been trying to build your team with people who have the right skills and knowledge. Although I had received a high level of interest in my advertised vacancies from marketing and business graduates, they lacked the specialised skills and experience I was looking for. In my view their learning had been too theoretical. I was keen to do my bit to develop Ayrshire’s young workforce, I knew that young people would bring energy, enthusiasm, creativity and a fresh perspective to my team so I decided to grow my own digital marketing assistant.

Why bother? I hear you say. Surely you will have to invest a lot of time and money training them, and then – there is a risk they might leave. Well, I believe as employers we have a responsibility to invest in our future talent. We have to bring in new people and replace skills. We have to ensure our current staff have opportunities to pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation. As for leaving, I think if you look after your team and do the right thing by them, you will retain them.

Who would make a good apprentice?

I don’t think this can be defined by age. I think you need to look for someone who has the right mix of skills, experience and personal qualities who would fit into your team. For me this meant someone who could demonstrate reliability, a good work ethic, great interpersonal skills and communications skills, understood the importance of customer service and came across as friendly and outgoing. Enter Catriona Cook – someone who had a series of hourly paid jobs in various customer service roles and was now looking to start a career.

It is important that the apprentice has a willingness to learn and will invest time and effort building a future and aspires to a promising career.

How should we mould and develop our apprentice?

“Show Me”

Most of the apprentice’s learning will come from the team. I had commitment from my team – they could see the value of passing on their knowledge and skills and nurturing a young apprentice. Our marketing team is award winning – I had confidence Catriona would be learning from good practice and good behaviours. The business benefit is that it has reinvigorated the team – making them look at what they do. Young people look at things differently and are prepared to ask questions and challenge the status quo. Catriona wants to contribute and her fresh pair of eyes is always welcomed. As a student herself she has a great rapport with our students and can offer insight into our target market.

 “Teach me”

Catriona is working towards a Diploma in Digital Marketing and works with an assessor in the workplace to demonstrate her competence. It will take her two years to complete all assessments which are flexible and tailored to her job. She also goes day-release to college to complete a Professional Development Award in ICT which gives her skills using Word, Excel and Access programmes – tools she will use every day. She takes part in our staff training and has recently completed courses in LinkedIn, Writing for the Web and Pay per Click advertising. She also has access to a library of training courses on-line, called Her portfolio will be impressive and she will easily be able to provide evidence of her digital marketing skills.

“Inspire me”

Probably the most important achievement of any apprenticeship is confidence building. Each day she has an opportunity to shine and make the job her own. The important tasks she is given make her feel a valued part of the team. She is encouraged to believe in her own ability. Catriona’s post is funded by the Ayrshire College Foundation and she is responsible for helping to design their website, managing the content management system for the website, communicating news using Twitter and LinkedIn, writing press releases about the Foundation’s news and events and updating the trustees at their regular meeting. She benefits from their encouraging and constructive feedback.

I do appreciate it might be more challenging for a small business to learn from “the team” when there is only one or two employed in the business.

What are the business benefits?

The benefits are easy to see – from day one Catriona has been learning specific digital marketing skills and is making a positive contribution to our team. She is developing a specialist knowledge and is a great support to her colleagues. She is growing and developing with the organisation and understands the ethos and values, and you can see this coming through in her work.

I genuinely think I have a more motivated and satisfied workforce as everyone is contributing to her development and we are proud of her progress and achievements.

Productivity has increased. Each week the digital marketing team meet and make a content plan for the week ahead – we inspire Catriona to be creative and write posts for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We review our Google Analytics and make decisions about our website and Catriona is given tasks to achieve to improve the visitor experience on our website. We plan our advertising campaign and show Catriona how this process works. We have been able to increase the volume and quality of our posts.

Ayrshire College has been crowned the best college in the UK for Twitter and LinkedIn content by the social media ranking tool, Edurank. It’s been a team effort and our modern apprentice has made a significant contribution to winning this award.

Still need to be convinced? I have asked Catriona to write a diary each day this week so you can hear for yourself what she is doing and the impact this has on our marketing productivity.

Be a confident Modern Apprentice!

During Scottish Apprenticeship Week we thought it would be good to do a series of blogs called “Meet the Assessor.” These are designed to help employers and apprentices gain an insight into the role of an assessor.

Continuing the series is Nigel Bennett who is a Motor Vehicle SVQ Assessor.



I am a qualified motor vehicle technician with years of experience in the trade. I worked as an apprentice controller, then workshop controller, and for a number of years in training companies teaching and assessing students to SVQ Level 3 standard, now to modern apprentice standard.

My job is to observe modern apprenticeship students in their workplace, discuss progress with their employers and mentors, and carry out a review of the students every 12 to 13 weeks.  I visit them on a regular basis to offer support and observe the students’ level of competence in workplace procedures.

Every day I visit different companies in the industry from local authority depot workshops to major dealerships and independent garages. Some examples are open-cast mining, car hire companies and bus companies.

A successful modern apprentice needs to be enthusiastic. Apprenticeships require practical learning and academic elements, and a good standard of core skills, diagnostic and repair skills are essential. Also be confident!

To assess students, I follow the standards set by the industry lead body and gather evidence towards the required standards they need to meet. This can include online testing for underpinning knowledge, practical work observation showing competency towards set criteria (this is during arranged visits to company workshops) and assessment of practical tasks in a college workshop.

Want to know more

Read our blog on “Getting up to speed with our Motor Vehicle guru”:

Check out the news section on our website to read about apprentice Gillian Anderson:

Read about our family of mechanics:

A day in the life of an apprentice … Part three

In July 2016 Ayrshire College decided to hire modern apprentices in Marketing and ICT. The marketing apprenticeship is funded by the Ayrshire College Foundation.

Eight months into her apprenticeship we asked Catriona Cook, our Digital Marketing Apprentice, to write a diary of her day-to-day tasks to give an insight into what her job involves.

It’s now day three of the series and Catriona attends an exciting training course to enhance her skills on LinkedIn. Here’s how she got on.


Tuesday pic

Normally on a Tuesday I attend a HNC Administration and IT class. In the morning I learn how to use spreadsheets and databases and in the afternoon I learn about office administration. The course has really helped me develop my computing skills for working in the office and would be a great course for anyone looking to get into an administration role. If you fancy it, applications are open for August start:

However, today I’m not at my college class because the marketing team is on a LinkedIn training course. LinkedIn is a business and employment-oriented social networking service and I have been learning more about how to use it to its maximum potential. It seems to be a really useful tool for business and to raise your own profile online. This is another reason I love my job, I’m constantly learning new things and more than often they are skills that are transferable to other roles.

The training today was delivered by Gary Ennis from NS Design, it was really enjoyable and I have learned lots about how to use LinkedIn. We covered the benefits of using LinkedIn, how to optimise your own profile and I now have a clearer understanding of how to integrate LinkedIn to an overall digital marketing strategy which is really useful for my job.

For the last hour of work, Jennifer has asked me to write and schedule some posts for International Women’s Day which is on Wednesday, 8 March. This ties in nicely with another project I am currently working on, a network called Ayrshire Connects. Ayrshire Connects is a network which aims to connect females studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects across the College. So far, we have had meetings and lunches, and the students visited the University of Glasgow to meet with its female engineering society, FemEng. You can read about that visit here:

My final job of the day was to email the photographer I am meeting with tomorrow to confirm times and meeting points. Read my blog tomorrow to find out about an exciting photo shoot I have planned.


Meet the apprentice – Tracey Govan, GE Caledonian Ltd

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

Next is 30-year-old Tracey Govan who is an Apprentice Fitter with GE Caledonian Ltd.


GE Caledonian at Prestwick is an aeronautical engine overhaul facility, providing services for aviation engines and components as well as avionics, electrical power and mechanical systems for aircraft.

Tracey worked in a large supermarket for eleven years, before a change in company structure made her consider her future.  Tracey left the supermarket to pursue her dream career.

Tracey said ”I wanted to completely change my career and do something different.  I’d always liked being hands-on, doing anything that involved a bit of skill, and I like learning new things.  I decided to go back to college, which to be honest, is the best thing I could have done.”

Now she’s in the second year of an apprenticeship following a year studying Performing Engineering Operations (PEO) course Ayrshire College.

“I found that being on the PEO course was a great way to be considered for an apprenticeship, it opened up a lot of opportunities for me.  Since I had already done one year on the PEO course, I went straight to being a second year apprentice at GE Caledonian Ltd.

I’m an Apprentice Fitter which means that I work on different sections on the shop floor, working alongside a colleague.  In my three years here, I’ll get to work in all of the sections.

The job is very hands-on, working to manuals – whatever repairs that the customer requires with their particular engine, I work alongside a mechanic and do what’s required.


My favourite part of working as an apprentice is the variety.  No day is the same, even if you’re in the same section, there’s always a different part of the job to learn, whether that is repairs, upgrades or working with single item components.  I work with different people on a weekly basis, due to shift patterns, so I get to meet everyone and learn different skills from them.

I go to college 2 days a week, and next year it’ll be 1 day a week.  The benefit of being an apprentice is that you can put the theory you learn at college into practice and learn as you go.  Actually being involved in the work is great.  I’ll get a recognised qualification as well as trade papers.

It’s amazing the opportunities that are out there working for a multinational company like GE Caledonian.  Once I finish my apprenticeship, I’d like to continue working for GE Caledonian, the opportunities are definitely there.