The first ever woman to head up the CBI in Scotland has joined the panel of judges to pick Ayrshire’s’ apprentice of the year.

Tracy Black, who became director of the Scottish arm of the Confederation of British Industry at the turn of the year, will help choose the 2018 winner of the Irvine Trades competition.

The former banking executive will be one of a group of judges who will study entries from all over Ayrshire after next week’s closing date (Friday, June 8).

All are experts in business and commerce across a wide field of disciplines.

Others on the panel are David Watt, Scotland Director of the Institute of Directors; Hugh Templeton, Director Licensing Quality at Blackberry; Gio Benedetti, retired entrepreneur; and Heather Dunk, Principal and Chief Executive of Ayrshire Colleges.

Two members of Irvine Incorporated Trades will also serve on the panel – organiser and former Central Ayrshire MP Brian Donohoe, and Ronnie Fergus, chairman of the judges.

Companies, business organisations and councils from throughout Ayrshire have been invited to participate in the 2018 awards.

Brian Donohoe said: “The task we have immediately ahead of us is to ensure that all the entries are in. The closing date is just over a week away and we have 200 employers to get round.

“I would urge them to submit their entries now – or phone me on 07774646600 for information.”

The winner of the competition will receive the prestigious Irvine Trades Apprentice of the Year Trophy along with £1,000. Plus, for the first time, there will be a second prize of £500 and a third prize of £250.

Last year Blair Larmour of Irvine paper mill won the silver trophy and the cash but a second apprentice, Jake Gilchrist of South Ayrshire Council, was also chosen to receive a prize.

The awards presentation will be made at a grand fundraising night and dinner in the Portal, on Friday, September 7.

Irvine Trades are keen to develop the annual competition even further as an all-Ayrshire event.