Money you can build on

8th May 2009 at 01:00
South Lanarkshire College has received a 60th birthday present from a former apprenticeship student and his business partner

In what is thought to be a first for a Scottish further education college, two leading Glasgow businessmen have made an "unprecedented" private donation of Pounds 250,000 to support construction courses at South Lanarkshire College in East Kilbride.

In a move more associated with wealthy donors swelling the coffers of universities, property developers Allan Stewart and Steve McKenna will channel the money through their Stewart amp; McKenna Foundation.

The money will be used to help provide places for the three out of four apprentices who are turned away from South Lanarkshire College's apprenticeship scheme every year, due to lack of funding.

Mr McKenna, chief executive of the foundation who studied at the former Cambuslang College (now South Lanarkshire College), said: "I was shocked when I found out how many apprentices are turned away every year from South Lanarkshire College, not due to a lack of space, but because of the lack of funding the college receives.

"As a former bricklaying apprentice with what is now South Lanarkshire College, I feel it is vital to help secure the future of the apprenticeship schemes which are the lifeblood of industry in Scotland.

"Myself and my business partner Allan Stewart are living proof that you can carve an extremely successful career from the skills picked up as apprentices - and we want other youngsters to be given the same opportunities."

Ian Macpherson, chairman of the board at the college, described the contribution as "unprecedented" for an FE college. He said the grant from the Scottish Funding Council (Pounds 8 million) was not enough to allow the college to meet demand from students.

He added: "We turn away at least three students for every place available. We are extremely thankful to the Stewart amp; McKenna Foundation for such a generous donation which will help safeguard the future of the apprenticeship scheme - and in turn help generate future employment - for so many prospective students."

Mr McKenna attended the college as an apprentice bricklayer at the age of 16 and Mr Stewart completed his apprenticeship in joinery at Langside College in 1975.

Theirs is a 60th birthday gift for South Lanarkshire College, which moved from Cambuslang into a new Pounds 35m campus in East Kilbride last year.

This is not the two businessmen's first move into philanthrophy. They have supported and created charitable projects at home and abroad over the last few years - including some in Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Moldova and Malawi - before officially forming their foundation to encourage other businesses to make contributions.

Mr Stewart and Mr McKenna have already pledged more than Pounds 1m to charitable causes, and they aim to pledge a further 40 per cent of their personal wealth to support worthwhile projects.

Their work has also seen them join forces with prominent figures, including former US president Bill Clinton and his vice-president Al Gore, to help highlight global warming and climate change.

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