This week (1-5 March 2021) is Scottish Apprenticeship Week – a time to share the value apprenticeships can bring to individuals, employers and the economy. This year’s theme is ‘Business Backing Talent’, showcasing the great things that happen when employers back talent through apprenticeships.
We’re taking this opportunity to catch up with some of our apprentices to learn more about their experiences, plans for the future, and advice for others considering taking up an apprenticeship programme at Lothian.
Meet Kirstin Riddell, former Lothian apprentice
How long have you worked at Lothian?
I finished my four years and I’m now a year qualified in my position [shift mechanic].
What made you apply to become an apprentice at Lothian?
I already worked for Lothian in a different role when I saw an advert on the internal screens for the course. I thought it was a great opportunity.
Did you have a passion for engineering beforehand?
I always had an interest in cars and fixing them. Growing up I loved cars and would always work on them. So, I always wondered what it would be like to do the same work on buses.
Do you remember your first day as an apprentice? What was your first task?
Yes, my first task was to service a bus. We were given a garage tour and shown how to do the day-to-day maintenance.
Would you say you have benefited from the day-to-day on-job training Lothian provides their apprentices?
Yeah definitely, it’s a massive part of gaining confidence for the job. You can learn a lot in classrooms and think you know everything, but you don’t actually take it in until you’re doing the practical elements every day.
How do you feel about the working environment the garages offer?
It’s really good! Everyone is really friendly and happy to help if you need it.
“Sometimes you feel like you’ve got bigger shoes to fill and that everyone is watching you because you’re the only female. However, the guys in the garage are really good. They help me as much as they can but they instil confidence in me that I can do everything myself.”
How do you feel about being a female engineer in a male dominated position?
I was always put off being a female engineer because I thought there’s some things the guys can do that I can’t. At the start it was daunting as I was the only female in the position. Sometimes you feel like you’ve got bigger shoes to fill and that everyone is watching you because you’re the only female. However, the guys in the garage are really good. They help me as much as they can but they instil confidence in me that I can do everything myself.
Do you take pride in your work, providing safe buses that serve your local area?
Absolutely. I always try and work to the best of my ability anyway but its nice to see buses out on the roads knowing that you’re responsible for them running safely. It’s a great feeling seeing a bus and thinking ‘I was working on that a few hours earlier.’
What has been the best part about being an apprentice at Lothian?
The on-job training. You can go in one day and do your basic stuff and then the next you could be rebuilding an entire engine. There’s so much variety. The good thing about Lothian is they try and get you to do everything. So if something comes in and they think you haven’t done it before, they’ll get you to do it so you have the experience.
What are your future plans now you’ve finished your apprenticeship?
I always wanted to continue in the company and get a full-time job. At the moment I’m a shift mechanic but I want to push on and get a day-shift or back-shift role and progress into management as well. Another benefit of the course is the career development and progression that Lothian offers their staff.
If you could sum up your Lothian experience in one sentence, what would it be?
It’s definitely worthwhile!
Would you recommend the Lothian apprenticeship to other people?
Definitely. Lothian is one of the best companies to work for as they always do the best that they can for you and make sure that you come out with the best experience that you can.
How have you felt about working during the global pandemic?
It was quite scary to begin with. I work in the Livingston garage and at one point it was only the four of us working. So, I was pretty much on my own and left to my own devices which was strange. The apprenticeship course held me in good stead to deal with working in the pandemic, you don’t actually know how ready you are for these situations until you’re in the middle of them. I realised during the pandemic just how much Lothian had taught me over the course of the apprenticeship.
Give one piece of advice for an apprentice on their first day in the garage?
Keep an open mind, and pay attention to what you’re told. It can be a dangerous environment but if you listen to what you’re told it’s a great place to work.
Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, we have temporarily suspended apprenticeship recruitment but you can find out more about courses with GTG Training who we deliver our programme in partnership with: GTG Automotive Apprenticeships.