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Inverclyde students thrilled with engineering work placement opportunities

Two students from Inverclyde have been given an opportunity to gain valuable engineering skills with ferry operator, CalMac. thanks to a new initiative working with schools in the area.

The 18-month training course has come about as a result of requests from school students who want to complete their formal school qualifications but do not wish to focus on university. Instead, it supports a vocational interest in gaining new skills in advance of leaving school and entering the world of work.

This is the first year that the programme has been available and CalMac, along with a number of other engineering-related companies, have stepped forward to assist and support it.

CalMac’s two students – Owen Kennedy and Ryan McGregor – are both from St Columba’s High School in Gourock. They have just finished S5 and will continue on the course for the duration of S6. Both have quickly made a favourable impression at the company.

With a grandfather who worked at both Ferguson’s and Kincaid’s shipyards, Owen, who lives in Greenock, was keen to follow his footsteps into the marine industry and would like to specialise in mechanical engineering. He says: ‘This is a great opportunity to learn more about the industry itself and to get some more knowledge. I like to know how things work and, therefore, when I heard about this opportunity I was thrilled and was happy to apply.’

Meanwhile Ryan, from Gourock, is particularly interested in electrical engineering and sees this opportunity as a good balance of practical work and college studies. He says: ‘I enjoy being able to get hands-on work experience. I feel many other kids my age don’t get opportunities like this one. I’d much rather do something with my hands than read a textbook and this allows me to do that whilst learning skills that will be for life.’

In addition to two afternoons a week spent at CalMac’s workshops in Gourock, the pair also attends West of Scotland College for further practical tuition. And all this fits around their regular school curriculum commitments.

The two students have already completed a bedding-in and preparation period of training in health and safety, and risk assessment – and have now set to work – under the watchful eye of CalMac workshop staff – stripping down a compressor. In the process, they are not only learning new skills but are benefiting from years of staff experience.

CalMac’s Technical Director, Peter Breslin, says: ‘We are extremely pleased with the commitment, drive, enthusiasm and willingness shown by both Owen and Ryan. They are very quick to learn and have been listening carefully to instruction, help and tips from our workshop engineering staff.

‘Both are a credit to their school and their families.

‘More than anything, though, they both really enjoy it – they are an absolute pleasure to have on board with us here at CalMac. Our staff are learning from them, too – they had ideas for annotating technical photos on the computer and the two lads have asked whether they can help by showing them how to do that.’

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In addition to CalMac, a number of other engineering firms have joined the scheme to offer similar vocational training – among them Ferguson Marine Engineering, Rolls Royce, James Fisher Defence and Texas Instruments.

Kevin Millar, the co-ordinator of the scheme, on behalf of Inverclyde Council via Inverclyde Community Development Trust,  says: ‘This training programme has great potential not only for this area, but as a model for what could be achieved elsewhere in the country.

‘Inverclyde Council and the Trust hold great ambition for Inverclyde’s young workforce and are fully committed in supporting young people into positive destinations. However, it is only with much valued employer input in curriculum design that we can develop and implement innovative vocational programmes and pathways to achieve our common goal.

‘We have discovered great support for the initiative from a wide range of employers – engineering and science are priority educational aims for both the Scottish and UK governments and we laid a path for gaining valuable skills and connections whilst students are still at school.

‘Successful completion of the course will result in an industry recognised award, Performing Engineering Operations, and rewarded with the guarantee of an interview for apprenticeship opportunities across our employer network and partners.’

Robert Moran, Provost of Inverclyde, making a visit to the workshops to meet the students, said: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for Owen and Ryan to build their experience with one of Inverclyde and Scotland’s important employers.

‘I’m delighted that, with the Trust co-ordinating on the council’s behalf, we can support young people from Inverclyde to work with employers like CalMac offering real opportunities in the sector.’

Scotland is short on it skilled workforce and there is a specific shortage in engineering skills. This makes it especially good to see such enthusiasm for engineering in these two spirited young students – and encouraging that they are enjoying the experience so much already.

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