Prestigious awards ceremony shines the spotlight on employers and apprentices who excel in STEM sectors

TALENTED apprentices working in the STEM sector  were named the nation’s best at this week’s prestigious Scottish Apprenticeship Awards. 

Apprentices working across a range of STEM sectors were crowned the best in their category at the ceremony, which took place at the Caird Hall, Dundee, in front of over 350 guests including employers and training providers. 

Now in its 18th year, the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards bring together apprentices, employers and learning providers to celebrate the contributions apprenticeships make to the economy.  Every category in this year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Awards recognised STEM with finalists and employers in the sector. East Lothian IT manager Hayley Donaldson won the title of Apprentice Ambassador of the Year, sponsored by QA.

The 22 year-old, who works for leading insurance firm Phoenix Group, was awarded the title in recognition for the work she does to advocate apprenticeships, career progression within her department, the company and across the whole of Scotland. A former Modern Apprentice with the Phoenix Group, Hayley was the first apprentice in the insurance services company to step into a senior role.

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. She is ambitious and she is always the first to volunteer. It could be a school visit or meeting MSPs.”


STAR: IT manager Hayley Donaldson won Apprentice Ambassador of the Year.

Arbroath engineer, David William Mackenzie was announced as Graduate Apprentice Rising Star, sponsored by the Centre for Work based Learning. David, who works at Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) in Montrose previously worked as a sheet metal fabricator and moved onto GSK four years ago. The firm introduced him to Graduate Apprenticeships to enable him to gain technical skills that support his hands-on experience. 

Currently a Team Manager, the 38 year-old is 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’s dedication and perseverance to succeed in his role shone through. He juggles working, study and taking care of his young family to complete his apprenticeship. He also hired a tutor to help him pass his Maths entry exam for the apprenticeship, after failing at the first attempt. The Awards also recognised those who have supported apprentices develop in their career.

Loyal GE Caledonian employee, Stephen McNab from Prestwick was crowned Apprentice Instructor of the Year, which was sponsored by Scotland’s Apprentice Network.

Having joined GE Caledonian straight from school, Stephen brings 38 years of experience to his current role as Apprentice Leader at GE Caledonian’s aircraft engine maintenance, repair and overhaul centre.

A former apprentice himself, Stephen’s proactive approach in his instructor role 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. STEM employers also gained accolades on the night.

Scotland’s largest technology employer, J.P. Morgan was awarded Large Apprentice Employer of the Year, sponsored by SQA. 
The firm started its apprenticeship programme in 2015 with seven Modern Apprentices. Since then, it has expanded its offer and now employs more than 60 Graduate Apprentices at its world class centre in Glasgow’s financial services district. Chipboard production plant, Egger (UK), was awarded SME Apprentice Employer of the Year, sponsored by Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

The Auchinleck employer 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. Roslin based biotech company Ingenza were named Promoting Diversity SME Employer of the Year, sponsored by People Plus.

Since introducing apprentices in 2009, Ingenza’s 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.

“There are so many benefits of work-based learning and apprenticeships. For example, if someone leaves school in sixth year they can come here and work with specialist equipment that people at university wouldn’t have access to.”

To find out more about the full range of apprenticeships available in Scotland, visit


Suzanne’s career is blueprint for success

Youngster awarded top prize for inspiring female engineers of the future

SUZANNE Birney has joined the ranks of some of the most influential business people in the country by being named an Apprentice Great.

Scotland’s national skills agency, Skills Development Scotland has awarded the former engineering apprentice the accolade in recognition of her achievements in business and promotion of apprenticeships, particularly encouraging women into STEM careers.

Suzanne has become one of the country’s leading lights in engineering and is blazing a trail for women in the industry. 
The 25-year-old started her career straight from school aged 17, working as a Design and Draughting Modern Apprentice with global engineering company, Doosan Babcock.

From initially failing her Highers at school, Suzanne thrived to become an award-winning apprentice.  However, as well as picking up awards, Suzanne has always been keen to give back and to encourage particularly young women into apprenticeships.

Her awards through her apprenticeship were the first of many. In 2014 alone she won a staggering 10 accolades including Skills Development Scotland’s Apprentice of the Year, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers UK Apprentice of the Year and Woman of the future – Young Star 2014.

Suzanne also gained a scholarship, which allowed her to continue her studies and complete a Bachelor degree with Hons in Mechanical and Electronic Systems Engineering. Throughout her career, Suzanne has continued to promote and support apprenticeships.


DESIGNS FOR LIFE: Despite failing her Highers at school, Suzanne has since thrived to become an award-winning apprentice.

In 2015, she was an apprentice ambassador for Scottish Apprenticeship Week which included having her image displayed on phone-boxes and buses.

Last year Suzanne spoke in front of more than 600 people at Scotland’s Apprentice Convention.

She has also worked with the Women’s Engineering Society and Equate Scotland to help encourage more women to follow careers in science, engineering, technology and the built environment. 
Suzanne’s employer recognised her talent early on. 

At 19, Suzanne was project manager of a manufacturing job for Drax Power Station, one of the UKs largest biomass and coal fuel power stations. 

At 20 years old she single-handedly managed the design, manufacturing and installation project for a Power Station in Hong Kong.

Suzanne completed her apprenticeship at 21 as a Computer Aided Design Technologist and, since that time, she has continued to gain site experience, work on foreign projects and gain responsibility. 
Now, Suzanne continues to have the desire and drive to succeed in the industry as part of Doosan Babcock. 

One of her current ambitions is to achieve Chartered status with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  Suzanne was inducted as an Apprentice Great at Skills Development Scotland’s Scottish Apprenticeship Awards 2019.

She joins alumni including apprentice instructors Charlie Murphy of BAE Systems, Kenny Murphy of the FES Group, Jim Swan of GTG Training, Jim McColl OBE and Scottish businesswoman, former apprentice and champion of apprenticeships, Alison McGregor, who has worked in a number of different roles and financial services institutions including Barclays, National Australia Group and latterly as the CEO of HSBC Scotland.

Nominations to induct the next Apprentice Great are open. To read and nominate visit