It was happy days at the Happy Hive as Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Employability and Training visited Crosshouse Primary School’s Communications Unit to pay tribute to an incredible band of award winning apprentices who went out of their way to help the pupils of the unit.
The EAC United HiHo Squad, as they call themselves, is a band of 19 Horticulture, Joinery, Administration and Electrical Modern Apprentices from several East Ayrshire Council departments. They were joined by apprentices from private sector companies which gave time, labour, materials and expertise to the project – a Snow White themed sensory cabin, for use by the pupils, their teachers and parents.
The “Happy Hive” cabin, so named by the pupils, who have autistic spectrum issues, was built in response to the Modern Apprenticeship Community Challenge issued by Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce. The team beat off competition from MAs from other Ayrshire Local Authorities and private companies to win the Developing the Young Workforce Award.
Led by project manager, Margorie Harvie, Transitions Officer with East Ayrshire Council’s Skills Development and Employability Service, the HiHo Squad designed, sourced and built the cabin, complete with sensory lighting, projector and garden complete with planters made to resemble the 7 dwarves’ beds.
The team faced many challenges – deciding on a design, gaining the correct building warrant permissions, digging a lengthy trench to facilitate the installation of an electricity supply and then persuading companies to donate materials, money and expertise all provided a real life taster of the complex logistics involved in project management.
Lewis Conoboy and Dylan Toal delivered a slick presentation, put together with assistance from Robert Hagen, Essential Skills Support Worker, outlining the progress of the project. They stressed how much they’d enjoyed being part of the project, working with fellow apprentices and time served craftsmen from other disciplines and companies, and told how the planning and decision making process had given them a new perspective, confidence and an appreciation of where their own careers can take them.
Minister Hepburn, who was welcomed to Crosshouse Primary by Depute Provost Claire Leitch and Head Teacher Tina Gaitens presented each HiHo Squad member with an individual trophy. He was impressed both with the project and the attitude of the young people he met. He said: “Margorie contacted me about this project as it was beginning, and when I heard about the award from the Chamber of Commerce I knew I absolutely had to come and see it for myself. Her enthusiasm was infectious!
“This is typical of the tremendous range of support for young people happening in East Ayrshire. We are very determined to ensure that we recognise excellence in education and training opportunities, and this project has achieved so much with the provision of such a special and flexible space for the pupils of Crosshouse, and the knowledge, experience and confidence which the MAs have clearly gained through their participation.”
Morrison Construction Community Skills Manager Jim Johnstone, who was instrumental in supporting the project with skills, materials, contacts and advice said: ‘‘It was wonderful to meet Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn during his visit and see pupils continuing to enjoy these fantastic bespoke facilities.
‘‘The team involved in this project, including apprentices from East Ayrshire Council and our supply chain, should be very proud of this accomplishment.
‘‘The Crosshouse Sensory Room is just one local initiative that has been completed by our employees under our progressive community benefits programme.’’
Leader of East Ayrshire, Councillor Douglas Reid said: “As a council our core values are about social inclusion, encouraging young people, providing excellent educational facilities, employment opportunities and partnership working, so it’s a great pleasure to be here today to welcome everyone to a project which has encompassed all these elements.
“With the Happy Hive, we’ve got a fantastic, imaginative project which brought together apprentices from our training schemes in Joinery, Electrical, Horticulture and Administration. Working with their mentors, other private sector apprentices, and with donations and help from numerous supply companies, these young people have created not just a cabin, but a whole world of opportunities for the pupils of Crosshouse Communications Unit, their teachers and parents.
“The legacy of the Hi Ho Cabin, with its Snow White theme, is already tangible. It’s apparent not just in the smiling faces of the young people who can now enjoy the space, with its therapeutic light and sound systems, the specially planted garden and the imaginative décor. It’s also apparent in the demeanour of the team who thought it up, planned it in consultation with the staff of the Communications Unit and worked so hard to design and build it. These young people, many of whom have not had the easiest start in life themselves, successfully overcame many obstacles in the bid to gain planning permissions, connect resources, source materials and prepare the site.
“Along the way they’ve learned valuable lessons in both practical and life skills, and it’s obvious to those of us who’ve been involved how their confidence, skills and enthusiasm have blossomed.
“Yes, it’s about a bunch of people getting together to build a cabin for some other people to use, but as we can all plainly see, it’s a whole lot more than that. We’re so proud of them all for everything they’ve done, and all they will now go on to achieve with the experience they’ve gained. At the same time we’re incredibly grateful to all those who gave their time, expertise, money and materials to help bring the Happy Hive into being. They’ve all proved that when we work together we can create something very special indeed.”