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Sarah Reid, Peter Wheelhouse, Ryan Laid law, Myles Alexander, David Miller at Machine 23

Mr. Paul Richard William Wheelhouse, Scottish National Party politician and the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy in the Scottish Government took time out to visit Ahlstrom Ltd, Chirnside, in the Scottish Borders. During his visit and tour of the site he met up with Ahlstrom’s two adopted modern apprentices; Myles Alexander and Ryan Laidlaw, who are managed, assessed and audited by Border Engineering Training Association, an employer led approved training provider.

From left to right in the picture is Ms. Sarah Reid from Skills Development Scotland, Mr. Peter Wheelhouse - MSP for South of Scotland Region, Ryan laidlaw - Ahlstrom Apprentice, Myles Alexander - Ahlstrom Apprentice, and David Miller - Group Training Manager for B.E.T.A.

Ahlstrom Ltd is part of a Finnish specialty fibre company who’s focus is on continuous improvement and building excellence in global operation which span some 39 manufacturing sites in 14 countries. At Ahlstrom, Chirnside they mainly cater for the food market, with four manufacturing platforms for non-woven production. The Chirnside plant makes heat sealable teabag filter tissue and fibrous meat casings for continental sausages, like salami and pepperoni. About 75% of the products are exported to more than 60 countries.
Stuart Nixon the plant manager who took us on a tour of the site explained that machines 21 and 22 are inclined wire paper machines, making filter materials and fibrous casing reinforcement for food applications. The reason the machines run up hill (inclined) is to allow the water to drain during the manufacturing process.

Their new generation machine number 23, there latest investment is a specialised spun melt machine which has been designed and fabricated to make the next generation of beverage and infusion products. This new machine is purpose built to manufacture the next generation of infusion material termed BioWeb™. Its principle raw material is PLA (polylactic acid) a biopolymer currently derived from corn starch. This means that the raw material is based on 100% renewable resources, making it sustainable. It is also fully compostable.

Both apprentices Myles and Ryan as part of the multi-disciplined maintenance team will play a key role in the maintenance of this specialised equipment as well as machines 21 and 22. To help Ahlstrom maintain their highly skilled work force the apprentices are following an approved Modern Apprenticeship which is being managed, assessed and audited by Border Engineering Training association. To help with the cost Skills Development Scotland (SDS) provide a contribution to their Modern apprenticeship programme. The modern apprenitceship consists of the apprenitces working towards and achieving a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) from EAL at level 2 and level 3 along with a Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) National Certificate and Higher National Certificate in Electrical Engineering. On site mentoring and training from Ahlstrom’s existing engineers play a key role in them achieving the SVQ level 3 in Engineering Maintenance in Engineering Systems. Ahlstrom’s engineers will pass on their knowledge of the equipment allowing Ahlstrom to maintain the exacting high standards in the engineering section. Both Myles and Ryan are due to complete their Modern Apprenticeship at the end of August 2017 becoming an integral part of this highly skilled team which, helps keep production running smoothly.