Apprenticeships – Vital for Scotland’s Future

On 31 March Ayrshire College Principal, Heather Dunk spoke at the national summit of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce (aka the Wood Commission). She described how the College is bringing employers and education together to make sure that the skills young people leave college with are those that industry needs.

Not surprisingly, apprenticeships featured prominently at the summit. Even before the final report of the Wood Commission was published, the Scottish Government announced increasing annual targets for apprenticeship starts year on year to 30,000 by 2020.

During her presentation Heather played a video showing how micro, small, medium and large companies in Ayrshire are working with the College to develop their employees through apprenticeships. Each of the businesses in this video believe in the importance of staff achieving vocational qualifications through a combination of college based learning and on-the-job experience. The young people in this video demonstrate why apprenticeships are so important to them.

James – Apprentice at GSK, Irvine

James wanted to study a science higher education qualification when he left school. After ruling out university, he decided to embark on a science course at college. When he saw an advert for a process chemistry apprenticeship at Glaxo SmithKline, he applied and is now combining study for an HNC Applied Science at the College with work-based learning at the company.

Shaun – Apprentice at Dustacco Engineering in Newmilns

Shaun knew at school that he wanted to work in a job related to engineering and went to college to study a Level 2 qualification. In his second year at college he chose to specialise in welding and secured a month-long work experience placement with Dustacco Engineering, who then offered him an apprenticeship.

Lesley – Owner of Lesley McDonald Hair & Beauty, Troon

Lesley achieved a clutch of Highers at school and was encouraged to go to university. However, she wanted to be a hairdresser and chose to follow her ambitions. In 2010, at just 22 years old, Lesley set up her own company and four years on she now employs six staff. A firm believer in balancing college learning with experience in the workplace, two of her employees are undertaking qualifications at Ayrshire College. Practising what she believes in, Lesley is studying an HNC to develop her own skills.

Want to hear more from James, Lesley and Shaun?

Find out more about these young people’s experiences via Ayrshire College’s YouTube channel For other examples of apprentices supported by the College read

Scottish Apprenticeship Week 19-23 May 2014

In 2014-15 Ayrshire College will support up to 900 Modern Apprentices continue or start their training with employers in sectors like engineering, hospitality, construction, care, hairdressing and motor vehicle maintenance. The College will highlight many case studies during Scottish Apprenticeship Week, so follow the College on twitter @AyrshireColl for lots of great stories, videos and events.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week helps showcase the value that apprentices add to businesses. It shows young people, and those who influence their choices, that apprenticeships make good career choices. Find out more about the week and get involved

International Girls in ICT Day 2014

To attract more women into science, technology and engineering (and keep them there) we all need to wise up!

International Girls in ICT Day takes place on the fourth Thursday in April every year and this year’s was on 24 April.

Lots of activity takes place across the world in the days and weeks around this date to promote the importance of attracting more girls and women into ICT study and occupations. Thanks to the power of technology, it was possible to learn about much of this activity through social media and the web. One of the most inspirational stories I read this week was about 19-year-old Noor Siddiqui who is developing technology solutions to help medical professional make better decisions during emergencies

I work at Ayrshire College, the fourth largest college in Scotland, and we did our part in promoting the campaign as we continue to encourage girls and women to study computing qualifications. We highlighted the choices and successes of our female computing students, as well as other examples of women in technology, science and engineering. Check out for a flavour of our activity.

However, as a woman who graduated with a computing degree in 1991, I am disappointed that this sort of initiative is still necessary in a world driven by information and the technology which helps make sense of it. Sadly, the numbers of women opting to study and work in ICT continues to decline and, more worryingly, more of the women who do enter the ICT industry after achieving computing qualifications choose to leave it!

I started my computing degree more than a quarter of a century ago, two years before the web was invented. Unbelievably, for an innovation that transformed how the world used computers in the ensuing decades, my degree class was never introduced to the web – even in a theoretical sense!

There are long-established organisations which have played a consistent role in addressing the under supply of women in the industry. The Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) campaign celebrates its 30th anniversary this year – three decades of concerted work to increase the gender balance in the UK’s STEM workforce, pushing for the presence of female employees from today’s 13% to 30% by 2020.

Women in Engineering was set up in 1919 to inspire women in engineering and allied sciences. It promotes careers in engineering, supports companies with gender diversity and speaks as a collective voice of women engineers. There’s a great presentation on their website charting their history from the First World War to the present day at

There are some new kids on the block – ScienceGrrl, GirlGeeks, STEMettes, STEMinist and many more – who seem to have more of an attitude! They appear to be more youthful, more assertive, more of the 21st century. Let’s hope they complement the consistent, committed campaigning of WISE and WES and make a difference.

Try them out on twitter @girlgeeks @stemettes @wisecampaign @wes1919 @science_grrl @steminist