A FORMER hairdresser has been taken on as Scotland’s first ever boat building apprentice.

Edel McCarthy quit her hairdressing course to become a boat building trainee.

The 22-year-old was recruited by the Scottish Maritime Museum’s Boat Building School in Irvine this month.

Edel said: “It’s wonderful to be both the first apprentice and first female apprentice to take up the Modern Apprenticeship in Boat Building and Repair. A few years ago I was studying to become a hairdresser and now I’m on my way to becoming a fully qualified boat builder!

“It’s amazing to think my life has changed so much because a Community Jobs Scotland notice advertising the opportunity to work part time at the Scottish Maritime Museum caught my eye.

"I wanted to move to a more physical job so this appealed but with only a little woodwork experience from school, it was totally out of my comfort zone. I’m so glad I made the jump. I really love boat building and repair and look forward to my future working in this field.”

Edel will learn traditional and modern boat building skills at the Scottish Boat Building School over the next three years, leading, it is hoped, a vital new wave of fully qualified boat builders.

The Scottish Maritime Museum’s Scottish Boat Building School was involved in development of the new Modern Apprenticeship, which was created to stem the growing skills shortage as an ageing marine workforce retires and significantly fewer qualified adults and young people enter the boat building and repair industry.

The new Modern Apprenticeship in Boat Building and Repair, which launched in March, also supports Scotland’s ambitious Marine Tourism Strategy to develop a first class marine tourism destination ‘delivered by skilled and passionate people’ and increase the sector’s economic contribution from £360m to £450m by 2020.

Edel, who joined the Scottish Boat Building School as a part-time technical assistant last year through Community Jobs Scotland, will work full-time on a wide range of projects.

Projects will include helping restore and maintain historic vessels in the Scottish Maritime Museum’s national heritage collection through to community skiff building projects and commercial work.

Upcoming restoration projects include the William Fife built 1932 Golden Orfe Tender and the 1884 Vagrant, the oldest known William Fife yacht and thought to be the oldest surviving Clyde-built racing yacht.

As well as on the job training Edel, whose first year has been funded by the Shipwrights Apprenticeship Scheme, will study elements of the Modern Apprenticeship with the Scottish Boat Building School’s Modern Apprenticeship partner, the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Welcoming Edel to the team, David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, says: “As well as an award-winning visitor attraction, the Scottish Maritime Museum is committed to supporting the community and this includes skills training and employment particularly through the Scottish Boat Building School which we opened in 2014.

“We have been a passionate advocate for this much-needed Modern Apprenticeship in Boat Building and Repair contributing to the major consultation during development. We’re delighted that it is now up and running and we can begin to help ensure, as a country, we retain our centuries old traditional boat building skills before they disappear.

“As stewards of Scotland’s national maritime heritage collection, it is a boon for us to be able to help train the next generation of boat builders who can learn their trade restoring and maintaining some of Scotland’s most historic and important vessels.”

Martin Hughes, Manager of the Scottish Boat Building School, added: “We are thrilled to welcome Scotland’s first Modern Apprentice in Boat Building and Repair to the Scottish Boat Building School. Boat building is traditionally largely a male oriented field so we are particularly excited that Edel is the first apprentice.

“Edel was an exceptional candidate for the role.

“She has a wonderful can-do attitude and has proven herself over the past year to have a real aptitude for boat building.”