FIFTY Ayrshire apprentices have been invited to tour the home of Kilmarnock Football Club for a business briefing later this month.

The apprentices will also enjoy a buffet lunch at the event organised by the Incorporated Trades of Irvine and held in the Park Hotel on Friday, April 26.

All finalists in last year’s Apprentice of the Year Awards, the young guests will gather in the hotel next to the stadium to help launch the 2019 contest.

The awards have grown in stature since Irvine Trades decided three years ago to extend the catchment area to the whole of Ayrshire.

Irvine has traditionally been the location for the annual dinner and presentation in September but, for 2019, the awards ceremony will be in Kilmarnock’s Park Hotel,with plans to use a venue in Ayr next year.

During their Kilmarnock visit, the apprentices will be able to meet the two individuals who have transformed the business side of the club. Kilmarnock FC chairman Billy Bowie and long-time sponsor Alan McLeish will conduct a question-and-answer session with the aspiring young employees.

Both are great examples of local people who have built up hugely successful companies from meagre beginnings.

Billy Bowie created his vast trucks and skips empire with £5,000 he had saved from his lorry driver wages as a young man.

Alan McLeish used £300 he had borrowed from his mum to launch QTS, the railway facilities company he heads up and which he has just sold for £80 million.

The two businessmen will share their experiences of how they made it big after bypassing university to go straight to a job after school.

Alongside them at the business briefing will be Trades’ officials Ronnie Fergus, chairman of the judges for 2019, and Billy Dickson, Deacon Convener.

Organiser Brian Donohoe said: “We greatly appreciate the input of Kilmarnock Football Club and their business people. The awards are now firmly established as an all-Ayrshire entity with an increase each year in the number of companies wanting to take part. We will shortly be announcing new sponsors who have come forward to suppor t the gala dinner in September.”

The winning apprentice receives a prestigious trophy and £1,000. The second-placed apprentice receives £500 and the third-placed apprentice receives £250. Proceeds from the gala dinner on Friday, September 6 will be distributed to Ayrshire charities.