Apprenticeship Case Studies

Find out why everyone is talking about apprenticeships! Here's what apprentices and employers say.

Engineering modern apprentice Tommy Macdonald, Strathspey Railway

Tommy Macdonald, Strathspey Railway

Tommy left school at the age of 15. He came to Inverness College UHI to study NC Mechanical Engineering before progressing to the HND in Engineering Systems, after which he started his engineering apprenticeship with Strathspey Railway.  The 20-year-old combines his apprenticeship with studying full-time for a degree in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. He’s currently in the third year of his four year apprenticeship, at the end of which he will be a qualified fabricator/fitter.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do after school,” he said. “I had been volunteering at Strathspey Railway and that’s what really got me interested in engineering. Work-based learning has been the best thing for me as I’m able to study and gain a qualification whilst doing the job. If you know what you want to do in life an apprenticeship is the best option.”

Because it’s a small company, Tommy’s work is very varied. He can be rebuilding engines, making new parts, or carrying out maintenance in any given day.

“Studying full-time before starting my apprenticeship allowed me to build up a good knowledge base and it really helped point me in the right direction,” he said. “I’ve been with Strathspey Railway now for eight years and really enjoy it. I’ve loved studying while taking on the responsibility of a skilled job.”

Strathspey Railway currently has three apprentices with Inverness College UHI. The railway's project engineer Paul Blount said: “I have been involved with apprentice training for many years, and as an engineering apprentice myself, I know how important they are to the success of an individual company and to the maintenance and development of the country’s skills base.

"Taking on an apprentice means you have people trained in the particular requirements of your organisation and that’s essential for the Strathspey Railway as we need people with the heritage skills necessary to maintain our historic locomotives and rolling stock.

"Our apprentices are all dedicated and committed to the railway and in return we give them the training and development to become all round engineers and craftspeople. We can’t just go out and buy the parts and components we need so our apprentices have to think on their feet, solve problems and come up with ideas to reclaim, repair and fabricate what we need whilst always conscious of time, cost constraints, energy and material conservation. When married to the academic opportunities offered by Inverness College UHI, many consider the four year Strathspey Railway apprenticeship amongst the best in the UK.”

Civil engineering foundation apprentice Caroline Gordon

Caroline Gordon

Caroline Gordon is one of Inverness College UHI's first foundation apprenticeship graduates in civil engineering.

Caroline began her foundation apprenticeship in S5 at Fortrose Academy. She attended Inverness College UHI one day per week for two years with integrated work-based placements at companies within the sector.

The foundation apprenticeship opened up opportunities in the construction management/civil engineering industry and Caroline went on to secure a modern apprenticeship with Morrison Construction. She’s now working and studying for her HNC in civil engineering on block release from her employer.

Caroline’s manager Simon Hewell said: “When we take young people on as an apprentice we expect to provide them with training to induct them into the job and build on it from there. When Caroline came to us we quickly realised that she could already undertake many tasks and complete them with minimal supervision. This has meant that we could immediately put Caroline to work on CAD (computer aided design), providing drawings and quantitative work to support our estimators in preparing plans for our new Windfarm project in Durnell. The next step will be to involve Caroline on the site work following this, so she can see how the work progresses from design to being actualised.”

Life Sciences modern apprentice Caitlin Grant, Macallan Distillery

Caitlin Grant, Macallan Distillery, US

Caitlin (20) works as an apprentice laboratory assistant at Macallan Distillery in Craigellachie. After leaving Speyside High School, Caitlin studied for an HNC in Applied Science, before working for a microbrewery in Forres. She started at Macallan Distillery last June and began her two-year Life Sciences apprenticeship in September. Caitlin uses chemistry to analyse different samples and supports the production department to ensure yields are achieved.

“Being able to complete a qualification which is relevant to my job is great,” she said. “I have the best of both worlds as I am able to study and be in full-time employment. I feel this pathway is the perfect mix of both work and study and I am so lucky to do both. I would definitely recommend this to anyone!”

Aquaculture modern apprentice Alan Tangny, Scottish Sea Farms

Alan Tangny

Alan (30) worked as a hotel chef for 10 years before he decided he’d had enough of “staring at the same four walls and working such unsociable hours.” “I wanted something challenging that would take me out of my comfort zone as well as letting me get home from work in time to see my kids before bedtime,” he said.

He’s been a Modern Apprentice with Scottish Sea Farms nearly 3 years and become an “outstanding ambassador” for the industry. “I haven’t looked back – the people I have met, the wildlife on my doorstep, every day being different and always having to think on my feet had me hooked within my first week,” he said.

Alan, from the Isle of Mull, started as a biological specialist and has been promoted to a senior husbandry role, stepping up to cover his manager at the Bloody Bay site when he’s away. Duties can range from net changing or washing, feeding fish, ordering feed, fuel or equipment for the site, health checks, wrasse management and mortality removal.

“A huge amount of salmon farming has to be learned from on the job experience, but studying for this SVQ at the same time has reinforced exactly why we do things," he said.

Alan’s Inverness College UHI assessor Martin Sampson added:  “Alan is a great example of how a person can achieve their life goals by embracing the opportunities for advancement opened up by learning, and running with it.”

Alan is one of two Inverness College UHI apprentices nominated for Lantra Scotland's much anticipated Land-based Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards, which take place on 28th March. Modern apprentice Scott Forder (26), from Kinlochewe, works for Marine Harvest and is doing his SVQ in aquaculture with Inverness College UHI.

Civil engineering graduate apprentice Bethany Welsh, Balfour Beatty

Bethany Welsh WEB

Twenty-year-old Bethany joined construction and engineering firm Balfour Beatty as a modern apprentice straight out of S6 at Forres Academy. She’s worked all over Scotland on a range of projects from new roads and bridges, to new schools and flood protection schemes, combining work with block release study at Inverness College UHI.

Bethany completed her two year modern apprentice in civil engineering before progressing to the graduate apprenticeship. She’s due to complete her Diploma in Higher Education in Civil Engineering in May and hopes to progress to do an Honours Degree.

“When I left school I knew I didn’t want to go to university full-time, I wanted to go straight into work. An apprenticeship killed two birds with one stone, so instead of just working, I was able to earn and get a qualification at the same time. It has been absolutely everything to me. I’ve loved every minute. I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship to anyone. If I continue studying, I will have a degree but also seven years of site experience. When it comes to getting a job in the industry, I’ll be heads and shoulders above someone fresh out of university.”

She added: “I want young people to know that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the right results at school. I didn’t and I was also determined to work and study and I’ve achieved it, so don’t give up, research, talk to people who can help, show willing and just go for it!”

Hairdressing modern apprentice Danielle Andrew, The Head Gardener

Danielle Andrew, Head Gardener

Danielle Andrew (19) worked in retail before she decided to study hairdressing at Inverness College UHI. She did the 18-week SVQ 1 before starting a two-year modern apprenticeship with The Head Gardener in Inverness. She’s now working, earning and studying for her SVQ2.

“It’s just been an amazing experience,” she said. “I’m learning so much on the job from really experienced hairdressers and get to interact on a daily basis with members of the public, which has been great for my confidence. The salon holds weekly training nights so I'm learning new things all the time, coupled with studying for an industry recognised qualification through Inverness College UHI. It has been the best thing that’s happened to me.”

Alison MacRitchie, owner of The Head Gardener, added: "In our industry it is crucial to invest in the future of the next generation to continue to grow and evolve with their new ideas and fresh approach."

Modern apprentices Leanne Sinclair and Gael Hillyard, Inverness College UHI

Inverness College UHI modern apprentices USE

Inverness College UHI doesn’t just support employers by providing training to modern apprentices – it also employs its own!

We recently took on four new customer service/administration apprentices. Among them is Leanne Sinclair and Gael Hillyard.

Leanne (22) took a job in hospitality after leaving secondary school, working her way up to a management level before deciding she wanted a change of career.

“I wanted something more permanent, with greater options for progression,” she said. “This apprenticeship is perfect for me as I have minimal experience in an office environment. This allows me to develop my skills within the workplace on a day-to-day basis and gain a qualification. It’s going to be really beneficial and a step in the right direction to a new career path for me.”

Gael (52) was a director of her own company, aviation consultant and interior designer before her daughter was born in 2006. She’s worked in a variety of temporary roles at the university since. “I know that Inverness College UHI is a superb employer and Inverness Campus is a fabulous place to work and learn. When I saw the opportunity to become part of the modern apprenticeship programme, I jumped at it. Despite having almost 30 years of customer service, business and administration experience I find I am still learning things and it is so beneficial to interact with such a wide variety of different staff, students, and members of the general public.”

Also pictured is new customer service modern apprentice Isabel Tanner, Shawna-Leigh MacKinnon, a modern apprentice in hospitality, and Thomas Holmes, our modern apprentice in information technology and telecommunications.

Inverness College UHI and BSW Timber apprentices take on DIY-SOS build challenge

APPRENTICES from the UK’s largest sawmilling company have given their time and skills for free to create the finishing touch to an Inverness school’s much loved sensory garden.

BSW apprentices and Drummond pupils

Seven apprentices from the company dug deep to complete the DIY-SOS style challenge on Thursday 8th March as part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week.

The BSW Timber Group rose to the challenge of building a decked pergola in part of the sensory garden at Drummond School after Inverness College UHI identified a need.