Skip to main

Innovation with a personal touch

Innovation with a personal touch helped William Andrew become a finalist in the Instructor of the Year category of Scottish Apprenticeship Awards 2024.

#ScotAppWeek24 Apprenticeships Employers Work-based learning

Smart thinking William Andrew has given South Ayrshire Council an advantage when it comes to recruiting and training apprentices. 

William is Service Lead for Property Maintenance, running the department which looks after the area’s council housing stock, schools, care homes, offices and other public buildings. This requires a whole squad of trade specialists and part of William’s job is to make sure that these jobs are filled with the best candidates possible. 

William has invested in apprentices to find new talent and tackle the nationwide shortage of skilled plumbers, joiners, and electricians. His department currently has 25 Modern Apprentices. The number has been creeping up - when William started in his role 12 years ago there were only eight.  

To date, William has supported over 100 craft trade apprentices. His team works across all craft trades - joiners, painters, plasterers, electricians, plumbers, slaters, driver labourers, builders, and heating engineers. Some apprentices come straight from school whilst others have worked in retail or hospitality.

SOUTH AYRSHIRE COUNCIL Alisdair Campbell William Andrew 1

William welcomes all of his new starts when they arrive. Having started out as a plumbing apprentice himself in 1978 he knows exactly how they feel. He said: “What doesn’t change is when you come in on your first day, it’s a great big place. That’s one way I can relate to our apprentices.

“I meet every single one of my apprentices on their first day of their new career, explain what I’m looking for, how I became an apprentice, how my career’s progressed and how the sky’s the limit for them. I try to put them at ease because I’ve sat in the same seat.” 

William’s personal touch is appreciated by his colleagues. Lynn McGeechan, Senior Communities Officer at the Council, said: “William is heavily involved in all aspects of the apprentices’ journey from being involved in recruitment and inductions to supporting and providing guidance throughout the four-year apprenticeship. He takes time to get to know every Modern Apprentice, to allow him to put any support measures in place and to open up other opportunities for them.” 

One of William’s innovations is to make sure all the apprentices have their own tools. He explained: “We buy the apprentices their tool kits, costing £350 - £550. They don’t have to pay us back until their third or fourth years, when they are earning more. We ask the tradesmen they are working with what they need, then we purchase them from a local supplier.” 

I make sure that when the apprentices finish, they are tradespeople who can be brought on as full-time employees and the council gets the benefits. I get so much satisfaction seeing them progress into tradespeople, just like I did.

William Andrew

Service Lead, Property Maintenance, South Ayrshire Council

Another of William’s smart ideas is to give the apprentices experience with building as well as maintenance. He explained: “South Ayrshire Council has a programme of building new houses. I asked the private company that won the contract if our apprentices could come on site for 12 weeks.” 

William is always keen to see staff develop and carry on training. He is in regular contact with training providers and colleges to make sure his apprentices are coping and always looking at ways to help them develop. He also introduced a logbook that apprentices complete everyday even when at college which is signed each week by their full time craft employees, and this is then reviewed at the 12 weekly internal apprentice reviews.  

William explained: “When the apprentices get through their first and second years we encourage them to do advanced craft. When that’s up, they can carry on with additional qualifications and some have done that.” In a previous local authority job William had worked with adult apprentices and was instrumental in getting this put in place at South Ayrshire Council. 

Four apprenticeships - two plumbers and two joiners - were advertised internally and 28 internal council employees applied. Two waste management employees, a driver labourer and a work scheduling planner were chosen, and they are all doing brilliantly at work and at college. 

SOUTH AYRSHIRE COUNCIL Finlay Hill William Andrew 1 (1)

William runs a department that’s as tightly organised as his own immaculate tool kit, treating it like his own business. William says: “I tell the apprentices they are here to learn. I don’t stand for any nonsense, if they are late they will be spoken to. But that’s rare.”  This combination of innovative thinking, support and discipline has made South Ayrshire Council’s building maintenance department highly effective and led to William be shortlisted as Apprentice Instructor of the Year. 

William said: “I make sure that when the apprentices finish, they are tradespeople who can be brought on as full-time employees and the council gets the benefits. I get so much satisfaction seeing them progress into tradespeople, just like I did.” 

Find out more

The winner of the Apprentice Instructor of the Year category will be revealed during Scottish Apprenticeship Week 4-8 March.

Go to the awards website