Belfast Telegraph

Apprenticeship set for take-off at City Airport

By Margaret Canning

George Best Belfast City Airport is to create at least one apprenticeship when it launches its first apprenticeship scheme later this year.

Chief executive Brian Ambrose -who started his working life as a Shorts apprentice in east Belfast - said the business was excited at the prospect.

He said he hoped the programme would give the successful candidate an introduction to all sides of airport life.

"An airport with all of its hassles is an interesting place to work.

"There are 1,500 people in 35 different companies in security, check-in, taxi firms, retail companies, cleaning, catering. There's a full menu of career opportunities."

Mr Ambrose served his apprenticeship with plane maker Shorts, which owned the airport until it was bought over by Ferrovial in 2003.

"Drifting through school I had some vague concept that what I enjoyed most of all was design and the way into that industry was through Shorts. They were taking on apprentices and if you were successful and made your way there would be opportunities for jobs in the drawing office."

He successfully applied for a fitter's apprenticeship and was afterwards accepted onto the Shorts aircraft design team.

That lead to a period working in America and the Far East. He visited companies like Toyota, IBM and Motorola to learn best practice after Shorts was privatised and sold to Bombardier and helped bring the company from making a £50m loss to a £50m profit in seven years.

He was given a senior role in the airport, which was then owned by Shorts, becoming chief executive when it was bought by Ferrovial in 2003.

Mr Ambrose said his apprenticeship had been a good start - which he said he hoped to provide to someone else in turn. "I'm indebted to apprenticeship. It gives you a good grounding because you come up through the system and that stands you in good stead."

He said that on a daily basis airport passengers encountered staff in security, check-in, cafes and baggage handling - not the chief executive. "In a position of leadership the job is to help get the best out of all those people and not kid yourself that the company resolves around yourself."

While an apprenticeship was a circular route to the top, "it's a grounding I don't regret and if I had to do it all over again I wouldn't do it any differently. It keeps your feet on the ground."