Scottish Apprenticeship Week – Stuart DunlopStuart joined Lothian's Mature Apprenticeship Scheme in 2022

Stuart Dunlop is making the most of his mature apprenticeship at Lothian, having spent over a decade working in the construction industry.

He applied to join Lothian’s Apprenticeship Scheme in 2022, and despite having no prior mechanical experience, was delighted to be offered the chance at a second career.

“I’d actually applied for an apprenticeship with Arnold Clark when I was 16, but I was unsuccessful,” he said. “So, I spent about 12 years on various building sites, but I fancied something different.

“When I saw the advert on Facebook, I jumped at it and luckily I was able to get on the scheme.”

Stuart always wanted to be a mechanic. He had a passion for engineering and believes the Lothian programme is the perfect platform for him to learn his trade. The on-the-job learning at Lothian is the ideal situation for Stuart, who much prefers a hands-on approach rather than having to learn things in a classroom and then replicate them later in a practical setting.

“I learn from actually doing the work, rather than reading from a board,” he said. “Actually, when I got to college as part of my apprenticeship here, I feel that I take things in better, purely because I’ve seen them in a practical sense before.”

Lothian’s Apprenticeship Programme is not only hands-on, but it’s incredibly involved from the first day. The vehicles that the trainees learn their trade on are the same vehicles which go out in service every day. This puts a level of pressure on the apprentices that not many other organisations can match. Stuart thrives under the pressure and is always mindful that while he’s learning, he’s very much a key part of Lothian’s service delivery.

“There is pressure for us in the garages,” he admitted.

“Public safety is extremely important so you know when you’re fixing a bus you need to do it right. If you stick to the guidelines and instructions you were taught, then you’ll be fine as we have a great team here.”

Believing it’s the best thing about the training, he credits his enjoyment of the course so far down to the hands-on experience and the expertise of his colleagues.

“In the garage is where you’re going to learn everything you need to be a successful engineer at Lothian,” he said. “You may know how certain parts work, but when you watch the guys do it properly and safely, that’s where the real learning comes.”

Stuart loves the variety of tasks he’s been given to do during his training. No two days are the same at Lothian, and Stuart is gaining a wealth of experience in a short space of time.

Stuart is now in his second year of his training, and has acknowledged the step-up in learning from the first year of the course. As the Mature Apprenticeship course is done over three years instead of four, the learning is much faster and more intense.

“Since Christmas and into the new year,” he said, “the learning has really stepped up from our first year. There are now more courses and more training, even our days at college are becoming more in-depth.

“We are doing a lot more tasks on our own as well, which is nice as we’re able to put our knowledge to use now.”

Although there is an added pressure of having got through the course quicker than the young apprentices, who do four years, Stuart believes his experience on building sites gave him a running start to his training.

“I was well versed on health and safety,” he said. “In my previous job that was just as important as it is here, so I went in aware of the need to be safe at all times.

“I’ve also the experience of having worked before, the expectation to be on time and be presentable and such.

“The life experience I’ve picked up has been a help, too. I can adapt to different situations as well as learning on the go.”

Despite all this experience, Stuart is just as eager to learn from the guys who have been working at Lothian for many years. He credits his progress to the willingness of his colleagues to help and their eagerness to see him and his fellow apprentices succeed.

He thrives alongside his apprentice colleagues and believes that Lothian has garnered a real positive environment for its trainees.

“It’s good having the other apprentices,” he said. “We lean on each other and help each other when needed. Because the training is so varied, you may have done a task that someone else hasn’t, so you can pass on your knowledge and they can do the same for you.”

Stuart’s favourite thing so far about his apprenticeship is the progression he’s seen in himself in just 18 months. He is also grateful of the time and effort he feels everyone at the garage has put into him, which motivates him to keep learning his trade and develop a long and successful career at Lothian.

“If you go in with the right attitude, the team will do everything they can to help you and push you on,” he said.

“You need to show them that you want to be here and want to learn.

“Lothian gets a new class of apprentices every year and even more applications so it’s a very competitive course to get into, so it is right that you show you are willing to learn.”

Stuart would recommend the mature apprenticeship programme to anyone looking for a career change and knows that his own success story so is testament to Lothian’s dedication to their trainees and their faith in their own people.

“Just go for it,” he urged. “Jump in at the deep end and show a willingness to train.

“You may be on with someone younger than you, but they’ll be a time-served mechanic so just be open-minded and take everything in.

“This is a great place to work and once I’ve completed my training I’d love to stay on full-time and work here for as long as I can.”

Join Lothian's Apprenticeship Programme!

Applications are now open to join Lothian’s award-winning engineering team on its apprenticeship programme. The deadline to apply is Friday 29 March 2024. Details of the two apprenticeship types available can be found on our Apprenticeship page.