Apprentices learn to love being all at sea

Deck rating apprentices Cameron MacMillan, left, and Stuart MacBrayne.

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An apprenticeship programme run by the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) offers participants the chance to travel to parts of Scotland many can only dream of.

The Deck Rating and Engineering Apprenticeship promises no two days are the same, with apprentices travelling to a remote lighthouse in the Outer Hebrides one day, and the next carrying out buoy work in the middle of the North Sea.

Stuart MacBrayne and Cameron MacMillan are the latest recruits to the scheme. Both are in their final year of the two-year apprenticeship and, when not at sea, attend City of Glasgow College Maritime Education and Training.

Cameron said as soon as he saw the apprenticeship advertised, knew it was for him: ‘Before joining the Northern Lighthouse Board I spent four years working at Dunstaffnage Marina, just outside Oban.

‘I worked there part-time when I was still at school and then full-time after leaving school. It was here that I got a real feel for the industry and learned the skills for a career at sea.

‘After a few years at Dunstaffnage, I decided it was time to move on and start my career at sea, and when I saw the job opportunity with NLB, I knew it was for me.

‘I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship and have progressed my day-to-day skills needed for this job massively. Everyone has been very helpful and good to me, and I’m learning so many different skills and techniques which vastly improve my learning.’

Stuart said his Argyll background inspired his desire to work at sea. He explained: ‘Growing up just outside Campbeltown, close to the Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse, I have always had an interest in life at sea and lighthouses.

‘I studied at Campbeltown Grammar School before entering full-time employment with the local fuel merchants and shipping agent. After spending over five years working as a fuel transport clerk, I decided it was time to move on and start my career at sea.

‘I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship with NLB. During my first two months at sea I had visited more of Scotland than I ever had before. One of my highlights has to be my trip to London onboard Pharos for London International Shipping Week – sailing up the Thames was a once in a lifetime experience! And another was visiting Hyskeir Lighthouse. This was my first trip off the ship onto a lighthouse and first time flying in a helicopter.

‘I would highly recommend an apprenticeship and working at sea to other young people. I have developed skills which will last a lifetime while working in a close-knit team and building working relationships with all my colleagues.’

Mike Bullock, NLB’s chief executive, praised the scheme for the wealth of experience it offered apprentices. He said: ‘The introduction of the scheme has had the obvious benefit of selecting and nurturing young talent to join our workforce. And, more particularly, ensures that by the end of their training, the young people have the combination of specialist skills and knowledge that are bespoke to NLB’s requirements such as deck work, buoy maintenance, helicopter operations and lighthouse storing operations.’

To find out about apprenticeships with the Northern Lighthouse Board keep an eye on their website or email