A PIONEERING new skills academy is helping college students get vital support from one of Inverclyde's major employers.

West College Scotland has teamed up with Amazon in Gourock to offer a mentoring programme to young people facing barriers to finding work.

The groundbreaking pilot, launched by the innovative Learners Development Course team on campus, matched students up with Amazon staff in a bid to open up opportunities for them.

At a special celebration event everyone involved came together to celebrate the scheme and the first ever graduates from the academy spoke about their hopes for the future.

One of them Brendan Williamson, 21, told the Tele he had 'really enjoyed' the academy and working with people from Amazon.

Brendan, from Greenock, said: "I really loved going into Amazon and seeing how everything worked.

"It is massive.

"My mentor Chris McLachlan was so good as well, I learned such a lot from him."

Mentor Chris, who works in the dock in Amazon, said: "I loved working with Brendan and it was something I am glad I got the chance to do.

"I think the academy is very worthwhile."

Fellow Amazon mentor and team leader Sean Grimley added: "I am so pleased I volunteered to take part in this.

"It was really fulfilling to help the students as much as we did."

Student Michaela Curmi, 17, benefited hugely from the programme.

She said: "I feel much more confident and it has been a great experience.

"I now feel like I have more skills for work."

The Skills Academy ran for eight weeks, both at the Finnart Street campus and then on site at Amazon's huge Faulds Park base.

The first graduates are Jodie Smith, Liam Cheshire, Lisa-Marie Findley, Amy Paige Lauderdale, Brendan and Michaela.

Course leader Leeann Jenkinson said: "This is such an important partnership with Amazon and we hope to build on it.

"Our first Skills Academy has been such a great success, you can tell the difference it has made speaking to the students.

"We wanted to give them a chance to learn skills and then go to the workplace.

"We wanted to have this event to celebrate our students success and thank Amazon for their involvement.

"This benefits our students and continues our close working relationship with employers."

Amazon site leader Lorna Sharples said: "It is great to work with and support the local community.

"This was such a great partnership for our staff as well and I have been telling other Amazon sites about the programme."