Can you tell me a bit about yourself and a brief history of your career?
I am long-time married to Karen, who is also my partner in our business. We have two boys, who are both grown up now and working within the business. Lee graduated at Herriot Watt, and has just recently returned from a two year sabbaticals traveling where he reached the delights of the far East, Australia and New Zealand. Jack has just this year graduated and is about to go traveling too – following in the footsteps of his brother.
I was educated at what was previously Ravenspark Academy in Irvine, now known as Irvine Royal Academy. I left school with a handful of ‘O levels’ and took up an apprenticeship in engineering. I attended Kilmarnock College, went onto Galashiels College in the borders then Caledonian University in Glasgow.
I worked as an engineer for about 10 years and then decided on a career change (as did Karen, who worked locally in travel). We joined Whitbread PLC as a trainee management couple and developed with them, opening and operating hotels and restaurants from Yorkshire to Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow and back to Ayrshire. We learned all aspect of hotel, restaurant and pub management. I then branched out into human resource, training, personnel and area management.
In the late nineties we decided to break out on our own and started our hospitality business, SimpsInns. The Old Loans Inn near Troon was our first property, followed by The Gailes and the rest followed. We have grown, expanded and diversified into hotels, restaurants, weddings, conferencing and banqueting and golf and leisure. All of our businesses are here, in Ayrshire.
Why did you decide to get involved with the Ayrshire College Foundation?
I was approached by John Rainey, who was the Chair of The Ayrshire College Foundation. John had been in conversation with Willie Mackie, the current chair of the Board of Management at Ayrshire College and he had suggested I may be interested in getting involved. Willie and I had worked on previous initiatives like Taste Ayrshire and the North Ayrshire Regeneration Board. I was very naive to the role and purpose of the Foundation but the more I looked into it, the more interested I became. It is a great opportunity to contribute, give something back and be part of an incredible new plan to have some of the best college facilities in Scotland. I am still in awe of the fabulous projects that have been undertaken and delivered with outstanding results. These are a great credit to the College management team and staff and not forgetting some amazing contribution from the students themselves.
Are you looking forward to this year’s Mission Discovery? What’s the highlight for you?
I can’t wait, if it is half as good as the past years, it will still be amazing and if history tells a story it’s looking to be twice as good as last year! Without a doubt the highlight is bringing together the school pupils and giving them the opportunity to interact and hear directly from astronauts and scientist from NASA. What an opportunity - to be inspired by people who have worked hard and reached the pinnacle in their chosen career! Not forgetting the fabulous competition to design a mission patch that could potentially end up in the far reaches of outer space! On a more ‘down to earth’ note, the collaboration between scientist, astronauts, students, teachers, private business and public sector is inspiring. I love the ‘can do’ attitude displayed from all involved throughout the week.
I understand the Foundation has now provided funding for various projects at Ayrshire College as part of the Innovation Fund, what advice would you give to anyone else thinking of applying to the Innovation Fund?
Everything starts with a great idea. If you are passionate and committed, go for it. Always remember to do your research, take advice and be prepared for challenges. Ask yourself, can you convince and demonstrate to others your project’s potential to succeed and if someone brought it to you, would you invest?
Reflecting on the achievements of the Ayrshire College Foundation, what are you most proud of?
I have enjoyed working with an amazing range of people from different disciplines, with a great focus and common goal. It is fantastic and fascinating to hear different perspectives on projects and then coming together in unity for the better good. Also, reflecting on the completed development and upgrades of student facilities that have been carried out across the various campuses, we now have an incredible resource across all the Ayrshire College campuses.
Can you tell me a bit about your career?
My career has been in education, primarily in the University sector. For the main part of my career, I worked as a Career Advisor at the University of Strathclyde and I finished my full time working as the Director of the University of Strathclyde’s Career Service.
It involved helping people make the best possible choices about what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. I feel that is very important - you can be as clever as you like, but that doesn’t mean that you know what you want to do, and you can give people as much information of you like - but unless they’ve got somebody objective that can help them analyse that information, it can be a difficult decision to have to make.
I understand you’re part of the learning and teaching committee, what does this involve?
Yes, I’m the Chair of the Learning and Teaching Committee which has an overview of the curriculum development plan, it keeps an eye on the College’s performance in learning and teaching, which is perhaps one of the most important things that the College does! It also receives reports from the industry programme side of the College’s work, so really everything that assures the board that the College is doing everything in its power to get the best possible outcomes for the students.
And I believe you are a board member too, this must make for a busy life! So why did you also want to get involved with the ACF?
Yes that’s correct. I joined the Foundation in 2015 when it was set up, as it was agreed that the College should nominate two board members to join. The Foundation decided that the Chair of the Board should be one of the representatives and that also, since the purpose of the Foundation was to support the College in teaching and learning, then it made sense for the person who was the Chair of the Learning and Teaching committee to be nominated, and therefore I was fortunate enough to be nominated to be part of the Foundation.
My motto is, ‘better busy than bored.’
What is the Innovation Fund and why has the Foundation created it?
This particular fund is only open to Ayrshire College staff. The Foundation can make donations to a whole manner of projects as long as they are going to enhance the quality of learning and teaching and the experience for the students at Ayrshire College. Many of the College staff have great ideas on how to improve their courses and improve their facilities, but sometimes the unavailability of relatively small amounts of cash is holding them back from making these innovations. It was therefore decided that the Foundation would set up a fund, the first part of that fund is the ‘Innovation Fund’ which was launched in August 2017 at an all staff development day at the College and almost immediately, in came twenty-four first class bids!
It was super, it shows the enthusiasm and the creativity of the staff. There is a panel, represented by the Chair of the Foundation, Tracey Stark, myself as the Chair of the Learning and Teaching Committee, the Principal of Ayrshire College, Heather Dunk and the Student President, Lainey McKinlay who review all these bids. Some have been given what they asked for almost immediately, others have been asked to develop their bids further and some have been directed to other sources of funding. Virtually all of the proposals that came forward have been assisted in some way.
What kind of things have people been applying for funding for?
Some were around giving students relevant work experience, others were around equipment which would enhance the courses and would also be letting the students have equipment which is just as good as they would find when they go to work with external employers.
What advice would you give to people who are considering submitting an application to the Ayrshire College Foundation?
They need to be clear that it meets the criteria under which the Foundation can award money and it must have a clear educational purpose. Where possible, external bids should also form some kind of connection with Ayrshire College. For example, if an organisation outside wanted to develop something like outdoor play equipment for pupils, the project could be advanced by getting some of the College’s students to help with that project. People who are bidding should also be aware that because the Foundation doesn’t have a finite sum of money, we cannot give money year on year. The money can be used to start something off, then people have to be clear about how they are going to maintain that in the future. Anyone who is thinking of making an application will get advice from the Chair of the Foundation, or indeed from any of the trustees - we don’t want people to be making bids that are ineligible from the word go.
The Ayrshire College Foundation are pleased to be able to provide funding for new facilities at Ayrshire College. Included in the upgrades is a new training restaurant, Inver. Ahead of Inver’s opening, we speak to John Govan, who is Head of Hospitality and Tourism at Ayrshire College.
Hi John, can you tell us a bit about what you do at the College.
I am Head of Hospitality and Tourism and my job is to ensure that students are on the right courses and to make sure staff have the best resources to help the students develop the skills and knowledge to be able to work anywhere in the world.
So what will the new facilities at Ayr include, and how will this benefit the students?
There will be modern facilities, which will mirror, and exceed, industry standards. It will give the students the best possible start to what is a varied, exciting and progressive career. There will be two kitchens and a training restaurant with 56 covers. Students from every hospitality course will have the chance to work in Inver, whether it’s preparing and cooking the food in the kitchen, or developing customer service skills, by providing a front of house service in the restaurant. It’s great, because the students will be getting real work experience whilst studying.
Can you tell me a bit about the new training restaurant, Inver?
Inver is a 56-cover restaurant with a modern feel and beautiful views over the River Ayr. We have called it Inver because this means the mouth of the river (from the Gaelic) which we look towards. We will be offering a mix of modern and classical dishes, with a bar to service the restaurant, so customers will be able to enjoy a beer or glass of wine along with their meal.
A preview of the beautiful new restaurant, Inver.
Will Inver be open to the public?
Yes! We want to welcome anyone who has time over lunch to enjoy good food and good service in a modern and welcoming restaurant. Whether you are looking for a nice relaxing venue to meet up with friends and family, celebrating a special day, or in need of a working lunch Inver fits the bill. We will be open initially Tuesday to Friday between 12 and 2pm. There will be special events, themed menu evenings and other services as we develop and grow. We expect to be busy so it’s advisable to book first, you will be able to do this on our website and Facebook page once they have launched, or over the phone. In the meantime, you can make any enquiries via our sister restaurant, Salt & Barrel on Ayrshire College’s Kilmarnock Campus.
Telephone: 01563 548 010
As this is a training restaurant for aspiring chefs and hospitality staff, our service may take a little longer, so please allow more time for your meal. This is also reflected in our low prices - £8.50 for three courses plus coffee.
What type of person should think about studying hospitality at Ayrshire College?
The Hospitality Industry is fast paced, modern, dynamic and exciting. It offers a wide range of possible working patterns which will vary with the branch of the industry you work in, and is one of the most sociable environments to work in. The range of jobs include the well-known roles in cooking and food and beverage service, but there are shortages of managers, supervisors, human resource and marketing specialists, trainers, finance specialists, accommodation servicing members, estates and grounds persons – and as a manager you need to have an understanding of all of these areas.
We are looking for people with great personalities who want to work with other people. Ideally we would want people with good organisational skills who love working as part of a team but also like to work on their own. It can be demanding working in hospitality but it is a modern, exciting career path that is full of possibilities. Not only is there the potential to work across Ayrshire, but a qualification in hospitality can lead you to a career that will allow you to travel and work across Scotland, the UK, and even the world.
Follow @Foundation_AC on Twitter for updates on the new restaurant, including sample menus and an official opening date.
In this blog our Digital Marketing apprentice Catriona Cook interviews Learning Resource Officer, Jamie Knox.
Can you tell me what your role is at the College and a bit about what you do?
I am a Learning Resource Officer at the Kilwinning Campus and my job is to ensure that there are adequate resources for students to use and if they are having any issues with things like IT, we’re on hand to help with that too. Throughout the day we make sure the LRC is tidy and the noise levels are kept to a reasonable level. We also want to make sure that the students using the facilities are happy.
What’s your favourite part of working in the LRC?
Definitely the daily interaction with students. Knowing that you’ve helped someone, even if it’s just a simple thing like an IT issue for example, to a student that might be a big thing. The students are always really appreciative of the work we do – so that’s nice.
Are you looking forward to the new facilities at the Kilwinning Campus? What changes will there be?
Yes I’m really excited - the whole LRC has increased in size which is great. One of the first things students will notice is that the area is going to have a lovely new glass front which I think will make the LRC more welcoming.
There is going to be a Quiet Zone, which will be a glass room where there will be individual areas to study and also a couple of group seating areas. This will be a dedicated area for students who want a quiet space to focus on their learning.
Another great addition to the LRC will be the Presentation Area which will have a large table, with a presentation screen that is IT enabled and this area will be bookable for both staff and students. It will allow the students to work on group projects together and also if they want to practice their presentations, it is a great place to do that. There will also be two Presentation Areas on the first and second floor breakout areas, again these can be booked by both staff and students.
As well as these areas, there is going to be more general study areas, and as we’ve noticed a trend with more people bringing their own devices there will be more charging areas throughout the whole LRC, including two charging tables that allow you to plug in your own devices to charge while you work.
Sounds good, is there going to be any new equipment?
Yes - students will also be able to book out one of the 60 brand new laptops we have, we’ll have an increased amount of PCs and we’re also getting two Macs which we’ve not had before – so it’s all really exciting. The Macs will be great for photography and sound production students and are a great addition to our resources.
Wow. This all sounds really exciting, what are you looking forward to the most out of all of this?
Just the fact that the whole areas is going to be bigger and we’ll be able to support even more students. There’s going to be brand new equipment and comfy furniture that will also make a huge difference. The study areas, increased charging facilities and new laptops will be a huge benefit to the students.
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In our next blog, Ayrshire College’s Digital Marketing Apprentice Catriona Cook meets Worksmart’s joinery apprentice Daniel Greig, for a chat about his apprenticeship and the work he’s doing at the College.
Catriona Cook and Daniel Greig
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your apprenticeship?
My name is Daniel Greig, I’m 22 years old and I’m a joinery apprentice with Worksmart. It’s a four year apprenticeship and that’s me nearly finished my first year.
What did you do before your apprenticeship?
I was actually doing another apprenticeship in engineering but was unfortunately made redundant 18 months into the two year apprenticeship. I always wanted to do joinery or engineering, so when I heard Worksmart were taking on joinery apprentices I went for it.
I understand you come to Ayrshire College as part of your apprenticeship, can you tell me a bit about that?
The college is brilliant! I get to learn loads, and I go to the Ayr Campus where the facilities are amazing. At the moment I go to college for a two-week block then I’m on site for two weeks. The College is great.
What’s an average day like for you?
Every day is totally different – I don’t really have an average day. In the morning I get all my stuff together and then work on whatever task I’ve been given for the rest of the day. I’m constantly learning new things.
What have you been working on upstairs in the Dam Park building?
There’s been loads going on. We ripped out of all the old facilities, we’ve put in sheeting walls, fitted doors and are working on repairs. There are other contractors working on-site too, so we’ve been working alongside them to get the work completed on time for the staff and students returning after summer.
What’s been your favourite part of working on the new facilities at the College?
It’s good to be working on a local project. It’s nice as well that I come to this college and have been working on improving the facilities that other students will get to use. Another thing that I liked was seeing the hospitality kitchens and restaurants before we ripped everything out, and then I’ll get to see the finished result.
What do you plan on doing after your apprenticeship?
I’d love to complete my apprenticeship, get my trade and then go abroad to work. I’d love to go and work in Canada where I’ve got family. The good thing about having a trade is that you can take it anywhere.
Digital Marketing Apprentice, Catriona Cook Updates us on Progress of Ayr Campus.
As part of my apprenticeship, working with the Ayrshire College Foundation, I am writing a blog to keep you updated on the progress of work being done on Ayr and Kilwinning Campuses of Ayrshire College. The work will see a total revamp of the top floor of the Dam Park building in Ayr and the Learning Resource Centre (LRC), Student Association and Partnership Centre in Kilwinning.
I had the opportunity to visit the Ayr Campus where the work is being carried out to upgrade the hospitality facilities. I met with Janice Steel, Capital Projects Manager of Ayrshire College, for a tour of the site.
The first thing I had to do when I arrived was get kitted out in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Janice gave me boots, a high-vis vest and a hard hat to keep me safe on the building site. I got a health and safety site induction and then was good to go.
Digital Marketing Apprentice, Catriona, in her PPE.
We headed upstairs and signed onto the site, it already looks so different! So far they have split all of the old areas out into the new layout, making the hospitality training and production kitchens much bigger. They have removed all of the old kitchens and ventilation systems in preparation for the new ones being installed. The new changing area for staff and students has been built, new windows have been fitted, the glazed wall which will be the entrance to the restaurant has been formed and the first fix of electric and plumbing systems have been fitted.
The newly formed glazed wall.
The construction site was really buzzing with activity. While we were up there Craig McCaan, who is the site manager from Worksmart gave Janice a quick update on how things were going that morning. There are a few different contractors working on the project. Worksmart are doing the fit out, GHI Ltd are doing the commercial and training kitchens, Redpath Construction are installing the toilets and changing areas and CMS Ltd are replacing the windows and curtain walling.
Janice Steel, Ayrshire College Capital Projects Manager with Craig McCann, Site Manager, Worksmart.
As we leave the site, Janice tells me that they are on target to complete the work in time for the lecturers and students returning after their summer break. She said, “I am really pleased with the work being done, everyone is working together and even doing extra weekend work to keep everything on target. This is going to be an amazing learning space for our hospitality students and it’s great to see it coming together.”
Janice Steel, on site in Ayr
I’m really looking forward to going back next week, I hope to interview an Ayrshire College apprentice who is working with Worksmart and I will also update you on the progress at Kilwinning. It’s a really exciting project and I’m lucky to be involved.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and a brief history of your career?
I am proud mum of three and grandmother of four who loves nothing better than having them all over for dinner – preferably in the garden.
Background in hospitality sector at senior level followed by a period as a civil servant with a few more jobs in between, prior to joining Chamber in 1999.
Now as CEO I head up team of 17 based at Glasgow Prestwick Airport giving a range of support services to businesses across Ayrshire together with working with schools and the college to increase employer engagement.
I represent the private sector on a vast range of committees, boards and stakeholder groups.
Why did you choose to get involved with the Ayrshire College Foundation?
I have always been passionate about education and helping young people reach their full potential. As a huge fan of the work of Ayrshire College becoming involved in the Foundation allowed me to further expand my relationship with the College and support the wider community.
It’s great that the ACF Trustees sponsored Mission Discovery this year. What did you enjoy the most at this year’s event?
The week was amazing and I don’t really have a favourite part. Overall to see the enthusiasm of the young people who are lucky enough to participate, to hear their ideas, be inspired by the speakers and learn something at the same time was a privilege.
Reflecting on the achievements so far for Ayrshire College Foundation, what are you most proud of?
There have been a wide range of projects supported by the Foundation both large and small in financial terms but they have all made a difference to lives of the people involved in the final results. I would have to say I am proud of them all.
What would you say to encourage local groups to apply for funding from the Ayrshire College Foundation?
Be innovative, dream big, have vision – we want to support projects that support the education and development of young people in Ayrshire. The Foundation can help you reach your goal. Also read the information carefully to see if you project fits with our aims and objectives, seek advice from us if unsure. Make contact with the College also for further guidance.
The Ayrshire College Foundation are delighted to provide funding to improve facilities for students in Ayrshire College’s Kilwinning and Ayr Campuses.
The Hospitality Department, which is situated on the top floor of the Dam Park building in Ayr, is being completely reconfigured. The new area will boast a brand new training restaurant, complete with cloakroom and wine cellar. There will be a production kitchen, training kitchen and laundry room. Students will train and work in the restaurant and kitchens as part of hospitality courses in order to gain real life experience. Lecturers will be able to film cooking demonstrations and project these on to screens, so that students can get a clear view. In addition to these incredible facilities there will be six classrooms.
There will also be new student lockers installed as a further improvement to the refurbishment of the student toilets and changing facilities that took place last year.
Work being carried out on the second floor in Ayr.
In Kilwinning, the project will see some major changes to the campus. The Learning Resource Centre (LRC) will be expanded by incorporating the adjacent room. The work done in the LRC will include new stylish furniture, new carpets and it will also boast a brand new Quiet Study Area, where students can have a tranquil area to focus. There will be two large tables with presentation screens that will be useful for students who are completing group work, six booths and three couch areas as well as four computing stations. This will bring a more sociable feel to the LRC and provide students with a pleasant area to study. In addition to this, there will be a new office for staff working in the LRC.
Expansion of the LRC has begun, incorporating room G18.
As well as the main work being carried out in the Learning Resource Centre, there will be bright, comfortable seating in the breakout areas on the first and second floors so that the students have somewhere comfortable to relax with friends at break times. There will also be self-directed study in these areas and students will be able to work in small groups to discuss their projects.
Bright, comfortable seating will fill this breakout area.
Lecture theatre 5 is set to become a new Partnership Centre, a dedicated meeting/conference room that partners, stakeholders and local businesses can use for meetings, training, celebrations etc.
The existing shop will become a new office for the Student Association. The office will be more visible to students and will be easily accessed via the main reception.
Lecture Theatre 5 as it currently looks from the outside.
Inside Lecture Theatre 5, which will soon be the new Partnership Center.
Can you give me a brief history of your career?
I trained as a librarian and I started my career working as a trainee librarian at Leeds University Library. Then I went to Cambridge and ran a Cambridge College Library for a few years, then I went to Oxford and ran a higher education college library and IT service for a couple of years. I worked in what’s now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and then the National Library of Scotland as a Director.
What did you study at University?
I studied English Literature at Durham University and then a Masters in Librarianship at Sheffield University.
What made you get into that?
I always wanted to be a librarian. I grew up surrounded by books, my parents’ house is full of books and so I read from a very young age. I just had that real interest in books. I started working in my local public library from when I was about fifteen because we had a thing at school called “community service” where you could go and work for half a day out of class, a bit like an apprenticeship.
How did you end up at UWS?
I came to UWS in 2008 as the university librarian, so I was responsible for all the libraries on all of the campuses. I was then given the opportunity to be a Campus Director, Director of Planning and I am now Head of External Engagement. It’s about building the presence of the university in the community and having a valuable impact on the community. What we’re really trying to achieve is that UWS transforms the lives of the people who live in the area we work in. It’s a big area because we cover nine local authorities plus we are in London now too. So the challenge is how we grow our presence, how do we become much more engaged with the community? It’s a fantastic thing to be doing, no two days are the same and you never know where you’re going to be from one day to the next. For me, it’s about always challenging yourself. I am still involved in libraries, I am the chair of the Scottish Library and Information Council, which is a government advisory body for libraries. I am still very committed to libraries as a service and as a social good.
Why did you choose to get involved with the Ayrshire College Foundation?
Well, it’s something I’m very proud of as I was one of the three founding trustees of the Ayrshire College Foundation. It came about through other non-executive work that I had done. The offer to be a trustee fitted so well with what I had been doing as I had a lot of experience of how colleges work and my day job includes being the liaison for colleges for the university. I already knew a lot about Ayrshire College and the people who worked there and it seemed like a natural fit. The chance to be in at the start of something, which doesn’t happen very often, was exciting.
Why do you think social media is important?
I was a fairly early adopter of Twitter. I think for me as a librarian, social media is very much an informational tool, so librarians tended to adopt it very quickly because we could share information. I think it is important as a communication medium as well as an information medium and I’ve used it professionally to disseminate useful information to students and colleagues. It helps people make connections with other people. As far as the Foundation is concerned, I think it’s about raising awareness of what the Foundation does. It’s not the type of organisation where there’s something happening every single day but it’s about raising awareness at the right times and amplifying what’s happening in other places too and as we build our following we can start to do that. It’s important that we can promote to people that they can apply for funds and that they can go to the website to find out more information.
What did you think of the Mission Discovery Project?
Mission Discovery is fabulous. The most important thing about the event is the level of inspiration it gives people. I particularly enjoyed the open event where astronaut Michael Foale spoke to over 300 people and hearing young kids in the audience saying, “I want to do that, I want to be an astronaut” you can build on that.
A lot of what Mission Discovery does is about raising ambition and raising aspiration and getting young people thinking about all the different things they can do. Realism comes in at some point – not everyone is going to be an astronaut, but the point that Michael was making through Mission Discovery was that we also need scientists, designers, IT specialists and people to run things on the ground. There’s a famous story about NASA in the sixties, that if you asked one of their cleaners, “what are you doing here?” they would say, “I’m working to put the man on the moon” because everyone in the organisation was pointed in that direction.
So what I think you’re doing is getting people excited about the possibilities of things they can achieve and that’s the great thing about space, there’s an amazing thing about any kind of exploration, that gets people excited and anything that has a child going home and saying, “I’ve seen what I want to do” and then finding out how to do it is good. It could be space, it could be other things and what we really need to do with the projects that we fund is get them to be part of that, getting people to believe that they can be anything they want to be.
What did you think of the work done to the Student Services areas in Ayr and Kilwinning?
I think they were really good projects, it’s important to have a good environment to work in and while it’s true that good learning doesn’t depend on being in a lovely building - because great teachers are the key to good learning - but there’s no denying that if you put people in a really good space, they will learn better and engage better. The buzz and the atmosphere you create around spaces is really important. I think it was important that the College had comparable spaces on all the campuses but also that the students had a space that was really inviting and really fitted with what they needed. I think that’s what’s been achieved and I think that the projects that are coming up will do the same thing for other areas.
What type of person or group can apply for funding from the Ayrshire College Foundation?
Any group that has a really exciting educational project that fits with what Ayrshire College are trying to do can apply for funding. We are aware that there are lots of really great community groups out there that want to develop educational activity in their areas and want to have an impact on young people that struggle for funding.
I would be really keen to see applications from groups with a great idea, that will support the development of people’s skills in Ayrshire and that will help the College to fulfil its mission. We want people to feel able to come to us with their projects so that we can help unlock some of those really small but beneficial projects. I would feel that would then really begin to have an impact beyond the walls of the College. The key is to think about how it fits with what the College is trying to do so that there is an overarching ethos. Fundamentally, we want to fund inspirational ideas.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a Depute Head Teacher at Grange Academy and my background is as a Physics teacher. I have worked together with Ayrshire College for decades because I believe that if we are working together, we can get the best we can for the young people we serve.
I have had many roles including being involved in enterprise and education with the College, I have been a member of the College Board, the chair of learning and teaching at Kilmarnock and I am now delighted to be a trustee of the Ayrshire College Foundation.
Why did you choose to get involved with the Ayrshire College Foundation?
With the Foundation it was almost a natural progression for me, when Ayr, Kilmarnock and Kilwinning Colleges merged to become Ayrshire College, I stepped down from the board but was delighted to be invited back to continue some involvement with the College. I am passionate about education, industry, colleges and further education all working together, so this let me maintain some involvement with the College and continue my support for it.
What did you think of the Mission Discovery Project?
We sent pupils from the school every morning, who were all very excited heading off to Mission Discovery and returning in the afternoon enthusiastically with lots of stories to tell.
I visited the event where astronaut Michael Foale gave a talk, which was such an inspiration. Our students found it hugely beneficial, especially within my subject, physics, where the challenge is always to ensure that young women understand that they have a huge future within the STEM industries.
Another benefit was that the students realised the massive opportunities that are here for them right on their doorstep in Ayrshire. One of the young people at the event commented on how they couldn’t believe that they could pursue their career in Ayrshire.
I’m interested to hear how you encourage girls into STEM subjects?
We have done so many things over the years as joint initiatives, with schools and colleges and other partners as well, higher education and further education sectors but it is sometimes difficult. As a teacher of physics and as a principal teacher of physics, I could have three rows of girls, and one row of boys in my class, but then not many of the girls were actually going on to do anything to do with STEM when they went on to university or work.
I would say that the biggest impact for me, my most successful experience, was getting the young people out and working in real work places. When I taught my advanced higher class on a Friday afternoon, we used to meet in the carpark and jump in my car and I’d take them to wherever would give me a project, a real problem for them, and allow my girls and boys to work together and use their skills.
We visited places like Diageo and the Paper Mill and actually see what it was like for women, and for men, to work side by side in engineering and scientific environments. The problem is that many people believe that science isn’t “girly” so to deal with that, I felt the best way was to get the girls out there and see what it was really like in a working environment. Because they were treated equally in the workplace, it made the students realise it didn’t matter if they are male or female, they can do whatever they want to do.
What did you think of the work done at the Student Services areas in our Ayr and Kilwinning campuses?
I think that the work was all very thoughtfully undertaken and it is evident that all students are benefiting from it. After the work was completed, I actually thought to myself, “why did we not do this sooner?” It’s great.
What type of person or group can apply for funding from the Ayrshire College Foundation?
One of our challenges is to understand and support applications appropriately. We need to make sure we get right applications and respond appropriately to them. However, we don’t have an exclusion zone, my experience is that the foundation are open to considering a wide range of applications. We have no set expectations, however the project has to be seen to benefit educationally and we want it to lead to positive destinations and impact the area and community, not just one person.