A young trainee engineer working with Rolls-Royce now has the "Rolls-Royce" of awards in his field, having been crowned Scotland's Modern Apprentice of the Year at a ceremony in Edinburgh last week.
Mathew Mackay, 20, from Watten in Caithness, beat off strong competition from 13 top apprentices to take the title, and was also chosen as Apprentice of the Year 16-19 in the traditional sector. "Absolutely delighted, thrilled, just amazing" was his response.
He joined the Vulcan Rolls-Royce modern apprenticeship as an instrumentation apprentice in 2004 from Wick High, and is now using his MA as a stepping stone to degree studies at North Highland College in Thurso.
Although Mathew achieved excellent grades at school, which would have allowed him into an engineering course at university, he decided he wanted a more practical basis for his career and opted for an MA instead.
His interest in engineering began early. "Being a junior member of the Caithness moto-cross club, I was responsible for maintaining and repairing my own Honda CR 100," said Mathew. "This involved general servicing, on occasion rebuilding the suspension and changing the top end of the bike with help from my dad."
From there, he moved on to work experience with Johnson Controls at Dounreay, which gave him a taste for instrumentation, and eventually to Rolls-Royce.
Mathew has moved fast. In Year 1 he gained his National Certificate and Scottish Vocational Qualification level 2 in engineering. In Years 2 and 3, he gained his HND and SVQ 3 in engineering, effectively completing his modern apprenticeship in just over three years.
Before taking up a full-time position with Rolls-Royce, he opted to do a further eight weeks of study on the engineers' Nuclear Technical Personnel Course (NTPC) at HMS Sultan in Gosport.
He returned as the youngest-ever Rolls-Royce employee, at 19, to pass the NTPC and got a job as an instrument technician with the company in November 2007.
Mathew is keen to develop his inter-personal and team-working skills, as well as the practical and academic requirements of the apprenticeship. "I took part in a week-long expedition on the Rolls-Royce yacht, 'Merlin'," he said. "It was a brilliant exercise to really get to know the other apprentices."
Mathew's performance is such that Rolls-Royce uses him to represent it at events, such as careers fairs, to tell the apprentices of the future what they can achieve.
There are now 80 modern apprenticeships across a range of industries in Scotland, and over 30,000 apprentices currently in training. They are aged over 16 and regarded as capable of achieving a Scottish Vocational Qualification at level 3 (the equivalent of Higher, Advanced Higher and Higher National Certificate).
The apprenticeships are marketed as "an exciting way of gaining skills and qualifications without having to study full-time".
Other award winners
Steven Loudon, 19, MA with Thomson's travel agency - Apprentice of the Year 16-19 in the non-traditional sector
Pamela Donald, 23, MA with Openreach engineers - Apprentice of the Year over 20 in the traditional sector
Ailsa Scott, 35, MA with Clyde Pumps engineers - Apprentice of the Year over 20 in the non-traditional sector
Coatbridge College - Training Provider of the Year for providing MAs in its dental section, particularly for those who have been away from education for some time as well as those with additional support needs
James Watt CollegeLoganairBritish Aircraft Maintenance Glasgow - Partnership of the Year for investing in apprenticeships in the aerospace industry
Score Europe Ltd - Employer of the Year, valve specialists, for commitment to apprenticeships which is the largest programme in Scotland.