Scottish Apprenticeship Awards 2020

Nominations for this year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Awards are now closed. 

The Scottish Apprenticeship Awards showcase apprentices, employers and learning providers from across the country and range of different sectors. 

It’s never been more important to recognise the success of dedicated apprentices, the commitment of their employers and innovation shown by learning providers. 

The Scottish Apprenticeship Awards 2020 will recognise the resilience and hard work of Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprentices in a year like no other. They will also shine a spotlight on those employers, providers and individuals who champion apprenticeships.

Award winners will be announced during Scottish Apprenticeship Week, which will take place from 1-5 March 2021.   

Entry Rules

Nominations for 2020 are open. Read our rules on submitting entries for this year's awards.

Last year's winners

Read more below about who walked away with the trophies last year.

Apprentice Ambassador of the Year


Hayley Donaldson

IT and Telecommunications, Phoenix Group

Tranent IT manager Hayley Donaldson is described by her employers at the Phoenix Group as ‘a shining light’ for apprenticeships. 

Hayley was the first apprentice in the company to step into a senior role and has become a first-class advocate for career progression with the IT department, the company and across Scotland. 

Hayley’s manager Nicky Minchella said: “It was quite apparent when Hayley came for the interview that she was going to be one of the rising stars.

It is fantastic to have someone who will promote herself, apprenticeships and the company. She is our ‘go to’ person’. Hayley is very professional and is a credit to us, her parents and her family.” 

Edinburgh-based Hayley has gone back to Deans High School to promote apprenticeships to senior pupils. 

She said: “Being in the apprenticeship ambassador role is important to me, especially going back to my school and talking to classes. 

“It was good to see how well talking about apprenticeships went and how people appreciated hearing about something that wasn’t only about the usual routes from school.” 

Hayley’s Dad was an apprentice who then opted to go to university. She said: “My Dad’s apprenticeship was more traditional and there were more men and fewer females. The contrast from then until now is massive. 

“That’s why I think it is really important for young women to hear from someone like me, coming back and speaking about apprenticeships and showing them what is out there."

Foundation Apprentice of the Year


Joe Pirrie

Social Services (Children and Young People), Little Einsteins Nursery

A Foundation Apprenticeship has allowed Fife’s Joe Pirrie to progress onto a full-time job at a local nursery.

After completing his school journey earlier this year, the 17-year-old now finds himself working, learning and earning through a Modern Apprenticeship at the Ladybird Family Nurture Centre in Glenrothes.

Having dyslexia and dyspraxia meant the practical side of apprenticeships suited him.

He said: “I was beginning to think that it would be impossible for me to become an Early Years Officer because learning in the classroom didn’t really work for me.

“Putting the theory into practice through the Foundation Apprenticeship was the perfect combination.”

Joe added: “There’s no doubting progressing onto a Modern Apprenticeship has massively increased my confidence. My mum’s really proud because she can see how happy I am when I come in at night.”

There was also a message for anyone else considering a Foundation Apprenticeship: “If you believe in yourself then you can definitely do it. 

“I hadn’t thought about an apprenticeship before but now know I want to work in childcare for the rest of my life.”

Modern Apprentice of the Year - SCQF Level 5


Mirhan Smith

Hospitality, The Larder Cook School

Doing an apprenticeship has helped West Lothian’s Mirhan Smith discover a career she loves and become the person she has always wanted to be. 

The Livingston teenager began her hospitality Modern Apprenticeship at The Larder Café in East Calder’s Calderwood Square and is now training to be a commis chef.  

Mirham said: “I found my apprenticeship at the Larder Cook School through Skills Development Scotland. When I got my apprenticeship, I realised that I could do this, at my own pace and I would get there.  

“Through my apprenticeship I found something that I love and where I can be myself.” 

Mirhan believes her apprenticeship had led to her having a lot more common sense and confidence in herself and her abilities. 

She said: “I’m proud of myself and how far I have come. The apprenticeship has made me a lot happier; I now know that I’ve got a bright future ahead of me. It’s amazing to see how far people can go.”

“I’m still learning, and I want to make it as a commis chef. I’ve been pushing myself because I love what I do and I am passionate about it,” she said. 

Graduate Apprentice Rising Star


David William Mackenzie

Engineering: Design and Manufacture, GSK

More than 20 years after leaving school, GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) David Mackenzie has the opportunity to get a degree and progress in his career. 

The Graduate Apprentice previously worked as a sheet metal fabricator, before moving onto GSK four years ago and is currently Team Manager. He explained the benefits of getting involved in a Graduate Apprenticeship at this stage in his career 

David said: “I’m a different person now to when I left school– I wasn’t ready for further education then.  

It wasn’t until later in life that I wanted to add technical understanding to the hands-on experience. Luckily, I found out about the Graduate Apprenticeship through a colleague and it just ticked all the boxes. 

“I think it's given me confidence in my own abilities and shown that I actually know more than what I had previously given myself credit for.” 

Now in the second year of his Graduate Apprenticeship, he has the opportunity to work, earn and learn while gaining a degree in Engineering: Design and Manufacture at Strathclyde University 

David said: “There’s people from all walks of life on my university course. I’m almost 40 and having the opportunity to do this, but I suppose the beauty of the Graduate Apprenticeship is that it’s open to everyone. 

Apprentice Instructor of the Year


Stephen McNab

Apprentice Leader, GE Caledonian

GE Caledonian colleagues describe Stephen McNab as ‘leadership personified’ and believe his passion for apprenticeships has strengthened the company’s workforce. 

Former apprentice Stephen brings 38 years of experience to his current role as Apprentice Leader at GE Caledonian’s aircraft engine maintenance, repair and overhaul centre. 

Stephen’s proactive approach has seen 15 people completing their apprenticeships, a further 45 apprentices joining the company, Foundation Apprentices learning at the Prestwick site and establishing a valuable partnership with Ayrshire College. 

Having served his apprenticeship and mentoring apprentices since the late 1980s, he believes in the value of work-based learning and the importance of quality support, while planning. 

He is also keen to encourage more women into the industry – 11 per cent of GE Caledonian’s current workforce are female.  

The 54-year-old said: “I make sure our apprentices are on the right track. I know they are working with the best in the business and learning from them, attending college and how they are getting on and enjoying what they do.  They also know if they have any issues, I am available 24/7 if they need me.” 


SME Employer of the Year


EGGER (UK) Limited


Egger (UK) believe apprenticeships have provided them with the ideal way to address an ageing workforce, while helping local young people start their careers.  

The Auchinleck-based chipboard production plant expects to lose 70 per cent of its staff over the next ten years, primarily through retirement. This has led to a focus on worked-based learning providing the next generation of talent. 

Egger currently has 22 apprentices in its 148 strong workforce and the number is only expected to grow further thanks to involvement in Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships.  

Plant Director Heiko Lichtblau said: “It’s vital for staff to have the correct skills to work with complex equipment and it can sometimes be difficult to get that by recruiting straight from university."

Each year the company hosts an open day and encourages employees to attend events promoting careers in STEM (Science, Engineering, Maths and Technology).  

Egger hopes this will help address a skills gap and encourage more applications from women through involvement in campaigns like #ThisAyrshireGirlCan. 

Heiko said: “There are a lot of people out there who don’t actually understand what engineering means. That’s why hosting open days and attending events is vital for us. 

We recently had a Foundation Apprentice come in and she finished the placement knowing her future was specifically in mechanical engineering – that’s extremely rewarding for us as an organisation. 

Large Employer of the Year


J.P. Morgan


Scotland’s largest technology employer has more than 60 Graduate Apprentices at its world class centre in Glasgow’s financial services district.  

Vice President Robbie Allan believes Graduate Apprenticeships are “critical to increasing the number of quality software developers that are able to support the thousands of J.P. Morgan users worldwide.” 

Robbie added: “Learning and development is simply part of the culture here, but it is also about tailoring that to the individual needs of our apprentices. It not simply about increasing their technical skills, but about personal growth and business skills.” 

The support includes study sessions during work hours to allow apprentices to concentrate on university work, access to technical mentors and coaching where needed. 

Apprentices are also encouraged to participate in industry talks and events and are part of a world-wide apprentice networks with links to communities from New York to Singapore. 

Robbie said: “Apprentices bring huge value to us. They are also great ambassadors for our business and are involved in ‘Code for Good’ projects which develop tech solutions for charities. Our apprentices recently volunteered at a charity event which raised more than £80,000.” 

Promoting Diversity SME Employer of the Year


Ingenza Ltd


Biotech company Ingenza believes apprenticeships are part of the winning formula for creating successful scientists from school leavers. 

Ingenza introduced apprenticeships in 2009. Their Head of Chemistry Fraser Brown feels Modern Apprenticeships have been successful for both the company to develop talent and for individuals to work, learn and earn. 

He said: “We have 37 permanent staff here and six are current or past apprentices. We wouldn’t be able to do a lot of our work without our involvement in Modern Apprenticeships."

This commitment to development has led to increased loyalty. One apprentice has been with Ingenza for ten years, while others have gone on to management roles within the company. 

As well as encouraging a new generation of scientists, Ingenza is also fully committed to promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in a variety of ways. 

Head of Fermentation and Microbiology Alison Arnold won the Scottish Women’s Award 2018 for Services to Science and Technology, while the company was also recognised this year with an Equate Scotland award for a campaign showcasing STEMINISTS – a celebration of women working in the industry. 

Promoting Diversity Large Employer of the Year


Wheatley Group


Since recruiting their first apprentices ten year ago, Wheatley Group has changed the lives of 438 people. 

Scotland’s leading housing, care and property management company manages more than 80,000 homes and delivers services to over 200,000 people across Scotland. 

Apprentices are at the heart of the organisation – living, working, earning and learning in the communities Wheatley Group serves. 

Liam Spence, Organisational and Innovation Lead at Wheatley Group, said: “We are really proud of our apprenticeship programme. As a housing association we are in communities, often in areas that are deprived. These are our customers and we want to invest in our communities and invest in the people who live there. 

“For us it is really important that we try and recruit as many apprentices from our communities as possible. It is about giving opportunities to our tenants, succession planning and fresh blood coming into the organisation.”