Entrepreneur celebrates start of Scottish Apprenticeship Week

One of Scotland’s best-known business leaders says starting out as an apprentice was the key to his global success.

Lord Willie Haughey insists he is “one million per cent” certain that he would never have gone on to create his business empire had he not started out as an apprentice studying one day a week at Glasgow’s Springburn College (now part of Glasgow Kelvin College).

Speaking at the start of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, which takes place from March 7-11, Lord Haughey praised the learning experience he received at college.

“When I left school I wrote 30 or 40 letters to companies looking for an apprenticeship without any luck. One day my mum’s tumble drier broke down and I got talking to the guy, Willie Allan, they sent to repair it. I told him I was looking for an apprenticeship and he said his company, Turner Refrigeration, were looking for someone. He sorted me up with an interview and I got it.

“The apprenticeship was fantastic. The teaching at the college was a wonderful experience. You got proper training at college while also working with ‘grown-ups’. The range of work I was doing as an apprentice commercial engineer was amazing. I could be working on fridges at Marks and Spencer one day or in the morgue at the Royal Infirmary the next.

“When I got my City and Guilds Certificate someone told me that with that qualification and my driving licence I’d never be out or work. And that certainly was true.”

Lord Haughey’s business City Facilities Management now employs more than 14,000 people globally, and he insists it all started from his apprenticeship.

“One million per cent, that’s where it started. Without the experience I got from my apprenticeship I could have ended up anywhere. But the discipline I received set me up for life.”

Lord Haughey remains fiercely committed to apprenticeships. “We’ve probably had 1000s in our business over the past 36 years. I’ve also paid for apprentices to be taken on by other businesses if we couldn’t help because I think it’s important that we retain skills.

“Next year we’ll be working on building affordable homes alongside the Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries (RSBI) and we hope to take on 100 new apprentices to help with that.”

Scottish Apprenticeship Week runs from today until Friday, 11 March: more than 12,000 employers are involved in Scottish apprenticeships, with 43,000 apprentices in jobs and work-based learning across the country.

Shona Struthers, Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland said: “Scotland’s colleges provide world-class learning opportunities for apprentices. Lord Haughey’s positive experience as an apprentice proved pivotal in him going on to achieve great business success and I hope his experience will inspire many more Scots to follow in his footsteps.”

“The modern workplace is rapidly changing and apprentices can build the skills which meet the needs of employers. Colleges work closely with business and industry to ensure we deliver the skills and critically the work-based experience students gain from, and which employers need.”

Events are taking place to mark Scottish Apprenticeship Week:


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