Black History Month – guest post

Kim Steele, History teacher at Doon Academy, has kindly written a guest blog to help the College mark Black History Month.

Kim has been working with the College’s Equality and Inclusion Team on ways to support the mainstreaming of equality in her school.

She advocates the rights of all, and champions’ equality, diversity and inclusion.

Her blog reflects on key figures and points in U.S. Black History and asks us to challenge any of our own prejudices in regards to race and ethnicity.

Black lives matter’ (2016) / ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’ (1787).

The words may differ but the meaning is still the same.

It has been over 200 years since the abolition of the Slave Trade in Britain and 150 years since Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in the U.S., yet many black people are still fighting to be treated equally. Throughout these years there have been many key figures who have driven forward the Civil Rights cause in the U.S. despite vast differences on how to achieve this.

‘We shall overcome’ (1962)

In one corner we had the peaceful movement. Civil disobedience was the order of the day, the media was peppered with images of unarmed protesters male, female and child alike being attacked by police dogs, cattle prods and water cannons. At the forefront of this was Martin Luther King Jr.


From the March on Washington where he delivered his ‘I had a dream speech’ to those in Birmingham and Selma, Martin Luther King Jr. campaigned passionately for Black Civil Rights. He encouraged black people in the Southern States to ignore the Jim Crow laws that segregated them from white people. He understood the needs of this community and used the media to highlight this to the rest of the nation.

For the first time, people in the North became aware of how dangerous life was for black people in the South. All for the price of being treated as an equal human being – a privilege which white people were born into but black people had to fight for.

‘Black Power’ (1966)

 In the other corner we had the more extreme groups who encouraged black people to fend for themselves – the very opposite of the turn the other cheek approach. Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and Stokely Carmichael, each encouraged black people to take what was seen as rightfully theirs.

“Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality and justice or anything.

If you’re a man, take it.”

                                                                                                                                    Malcolm X


While the media was a great tool for Martin Luther King Jr., the opposite could be said for these individuals and groups – no one wanted to print stories of how black communities were healing the wounds white people had inflicted upon them. The Black Panthers set up Breakfast Clubs for children, provided free medical clinics and addiction rehabilitation. These were the prevalent issues of the 1960s and are still, arguably, the case today.

‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM)

The Black Lives Matter movement brings us back to the modern day – with the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a Neighbourhood Watch Captain, in 2012.

BLM is a movement created in response when Zimmerman was found Not Guilty of killing Trayvon. The movement really picked up pace in 2014 when Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by a white Police Officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Riots erupted in Ferguson and sparked renewed racial concerns echoing those in Detroit, Watts and Birmingham almost 60 years ago – tensions between black communities and the Police Force stretched to breaking point with senseless deaths on all sides.

So the questions are obvious – despite changes in the law to promote equality on all fronts, why are people still trying to supress each other on the basis of race? How can a persons’ skin colour determine the quality of life they will lead or the chances they will have in life?

This is why Black History Month is important. We cannot ignore the struggles and sacrifices individuals have endured for the sake of equality. Centuries have passed and black people are still suffering because they were not, ultimately, born white. We must continue to tackle racism and prejudice at every level.

While Martin Luther Jr. had a dream, I have a wish that one day we will no longer have a cause to fight for equality on any level. We all will simply just be. Sadly, we are not there.


I would like to add a closing thought – remember that day you wore your top outside in and nobody noticed because it looked the same? Imagine we were to do the same with our skin, would we still have the very same racial issues as we do now?

Visit the Equality and Inclusion Moodle page for several student podcasts on key figures of Black History.

Meet the Kilwinning graduation prizewinners

Tomorrow is a big day for so many students of Ayrshire College: it’s the Kilwinning graduation!

In the lead-up to this event we have been unveiling one graduation prizewinner per day on our website.

There are 11 recipients in total – nine ‘Student of the Year’ winners, and one winner each of the ‘Making a Difference in the Community’ and ‘Outstanding Achievement’ awards.

And here they are!

Read why these 11 students deserve special recognition, in the words of their lecturers.

Student of the Year for Arts and Fashion – sponsored by Alex Begg and Company


Karen has been recognised for the outstanding quality and quantity of work she produced both in the College and outwith her HNC Photography class. This is in addition to all the commitments associated with raising a young family.

Her eagerness to expand her technical and photographic knowledge was very refreshing for staff and encouraged other learners.  This eagerness was apparent in every unit and, in fact, in everything she did.

Student of the Year for Business, Administration and Accounts – sponsored by Developing the Young Workforce


Ann-Marie consistently produced a high standard of work throughout the year whilst caring for her family and working outwith the College.

During her time at college, Ann-Marie and two of her peers organised an event to raise money for the charity Sands which was extremely successful and raised a lot of money for a very worthwhile cause.

Ann-Marie is a very positive and caring person who has worked very hard over the last two years to achieve her HND in Administration and Information Technology.

Student of the Year for Care – sponsored by Ede and Ravenscroft


When Shannon began her studies in care she was a shy young girl whose passion for working with young people shone through.  As she progressed to HNC Social Care, her confidence grew as well as her own self-belief.

We have no doubt that Shannon will be successful in her chosen career.  She completed a very successful placement this year and developed effective working relationships with staff and service users alike, showing particular aptitude in working with young people with Autism.

It should be noted that Shannon’s nomination for Student of the Year was a unanimous decision by the Social Care lecturing staff which clearly shows how highly regarded Shannon is.

Student of the Year for Computing and IT – sponsored by The DTP Group


Lindsay is an outstanding HND Computer Science student who is unendingly cheerful, industrious and supportive of her fellow class members. She achieved an ‘A’ grade pass in both years of her Graded Unit.

She never missed a submission deadline, and her work was consistently of the highest quality.

She is a quiet, unassuming person, with an unshakably positive outlook, which she maintains despite the many difficulties that she encounters every day through personal matters.

Student of the Year for Early Years – sponsored by Ede and Ravenscroft


Helen is a very caring young woman, is first to help and mentor other students in her own quiet way, and has been instrumental in encouraging others to complete their HNC Early Education course.

She is an excellent ambassador for Ayrshire College and has received glowing reports from her college work placement.

Helen is very modest and would not seek recognition for her achievements; however the Early Education Team feel she deserves this award for her determination to overcome the hurdles and challenges she has faced at a young age and the positive outcomes she has gained through her own tenacity and resolve.

Student of the Year for Engineering and Science – sponsored by Bellrock


Danielle has shown an understanding far beyond most others and has grasped some extremely difficult subjects better than most over the years.

She has achieved a grade ‘A’ for her Graded Unit. Throughout this she worked meticulously and went above and beyond the criteria. She puts a great deal of effort into all of her work and completes it to a very high standard. She consistently scored over 90% in all of her exams.

She is a polite student who has shown that she really cares about not just completing her HND in Biomedical Science, but completing it to the best of her abilities. She is a true scientist and an excellent student.

Student of the Year for Hair and Beauty – sponsored by Ellisons


Kelly has been determined not only to pass her courses but to achieve them with high marks. She has successfully gained an ‘A’ grade in her HND Beauty Therapy.

She has been nominated for the Excellence Awards in previous years by lecturers due to her commitment to college studies and excellent beauty skills. She is always willing to go that extra mile for her class peers and lecturers. When asked to do a task she always accepts with a smile and in a gracious manner. Her client feedback is always full of praise for her warm and friendly manner.

She has endeared herself to the Beauty Department and the team are sorry to see her leave college, however are happy in the knowledge that Kelly will have many opportunities open to her in the future.

Student of the Year for Social Science – sponsored by Wai Beyond


Alana has consistently improved over the last 3 years she has been at Ayrshire College due to hard work and her determination to succeed. She embraced the challenge of HNC Social Science and had an amazing year, consistently producing an excellent standard of work.

Alana even found the time to help her classmates by providing encouragement and motivation and setting a positive example to help others succeed. She is an asset to the College and an exemplary student.

Alana has now successfully gained employment as a Trainee Fitness Coach which is testimony to her drive and enthusiasm, which was evident on the course.

Student of the Year for Sport and Fitness – sponsored by Ayrshire Sportsabilitytracey-farrell-graduation-2016-social-media-share-posts_instagram-post

As a mature student Tracey has overcame every challenge presented to her during her HNC Fitness Health and Exercise course with a completely positive attitude.

Tracey balanced her studies with other family and caring commitments while becoming heavily involved in fitness work through the community.

A key project that Tracey has been involved with is working at the new Vennel Gardens (sheltered housing) in Irvine.

Tracey delivered age appropriate exercise sessions to the residents including chair aerobics and has continued this community work throughout the summer to the delight of the staff at the Vennel.

Making a Difference in the Community – sponsored by SimpsInns


James progressed brilliantly from NC level work onto HNC Coaching and Developing Sport course in 2015/16. James is a dedicated and honest learner who is always keen to support the College by representing us at numerous events.  While in the community, James is involved in a wide variety of activities.

He also represented Sport and Social Science when he discussed his course and college involvement with Education Scotland during their recent visit.

James has returned to do the second year of his HND and will no doubt move onto great things.

Outstanding Achievement – sponsored by SQA


Kris lives in Arran and throughout his time at the College commuted via ferry to the Kilwinning Campus, earning him a reputation as someone with tremendous drive and determination.

He started at the College five years ago on the NC Digital Media Computing course. His IT skills have improved dramatically since then while he has also grown in confidence each year.

Kris thoroughly deserves this recognition and the Computing team wish him all the very best going forward.

Congratulations everyone: see you tomorrow!

ADAmant that we will attract more women into STEM!

Vice principal Jackie Galbraith shares her thoughts on the importance of recognising and celebrating women in STEM in the past, present and future.

It’s Ada Lovelace Day 2016, and Ayrshire College is ADAmant that we will attract more girls and women into science, engineering, technology and maths (STEM).

This is a key priority for us and we are working with schools, employers and national organisations to raise awareness of opportunities for women in STEM sectors, encourage take-up of STEM courses by girls and women, help students succeed on their courses, and connect female STEM students on different courses across the college, with students in other colleges and universities, and with women in industry.

Many people argue that there has never been a better time to be a woman in STEM. There are tens of thousands of high value, high quality jobs in sectors like digital and engineering. Employers don’t just need women to fill these jobs – they WANT them, because of the skills they bring! And, increasingly there are more diverse and equally valued routes to becoming a STEM professional – through college, apprenticeships and/or university.

But, we have a problem.

The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe. The proportion of young women taking STEM subjects at school, college and university is stubbornly low. And, incredibly, there is a smaller proportion of women studying and working in computing and digital technology now than when I was a computing student 30 years ago!

And yet, throughout history, women have played an important role in STEM . However, you need to seek them out! It’s important to recognise women from the past and present to stake our claim in this exciting world. Days like Ada Lovelace Day are about celebrating the pioneering, but often unknown or forgotten, work of women in fields like computing.

Women like Ada Lovelace, the mother of programming born 200 years ago who wrote the first ever computer programme 100 years before computers were even invented! Unlike her mentor Charles Babbage, whose analytical engine was the forerunner of the physical computer, Ada had the vision to imagine that a computer could create images and music, and not just do complicated sums.

Women like Scottish mathematician Mary Somerville (soon to be recognised on a £10 bank note), born in 1780 who, despite living in an age when women were discouraged from studying science, is credited with an instrumental role in the discovery of Neptune. Mary was the young Ada Lovelace ‘s mathematics tutor and mentor.

Florence Nightingale’s infographic

Women like Florence Nightingale, well known for her dedication to injured soldiers during the Crimean War, but less famous for her mathematical ability. Florence’s analysis of large amounts of data, presented graphically ,demonstrated that significantly more men were dying from preventable diseases in hospital than from wounds inflicted in battle. This led to the government allocating funds to improve the cleanliness of hospitals. Hundreds of years before the terms ‘big data’, ‘data scientist’ and ‘data visualisation’ became the latest big things, Florence was a big deal!

It is not just rich, privileged women who have made an impact over the centuries. Jeannie Riley, one of many Glasgow female munitions workers during the First World War, dreamed of becoming an engineer. Sadly, when Jeanie’s husband and other men returned from the trenches in France, the aspirations of women like Jeanie were denied and they had to give up their jobs in industry.

Like Jeannie, American Mary Sherman Morgan dropped out of education during World War II to take a job at a munitions factory. After the war ended, she began working at North American Aviation as an aspiring rocket scientist. In the 1940s, an elite team of mathematicians and scientists started working on a project that would carry the US into space. Eventually becoming NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, what made it unusual was that many of those who charted the course to space exploration were women!

In January 2017, a new film tells the story of African-American mathematician Katherine Johnson and her two colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, whose calculations helped John Glenn became the first American astronaut to make a complete orbit of the Earth. Known as computers, these women played a critical role in space exploration.

It is important to recognise and celebrate the contributions of women scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians in the past. This is becoming easier with films like Hidden Figures and books like Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women who Propelled us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars.

It is even more important to acknowledge and promote women in STEM today. Today’s women in STEM include our own students and staff (click on the links to find out more). They include the STEM ambassadors in schools across Ayrshire, as well as women in STEM industry sectors making an impact on companies in the region.


Tomorrow’s women in STEM are the girls in today’s nursery, primary and secondary schools – some of whom are connecting to engineering, science, construction and technology through activities like Primary Engineer, the Bloodhound Challenge, and Ayrshire College’s Girls in STEM and CoderDojo workshops.

We remain ADAmant that we will challenge gender stereotyping in career and learning choices, and that we will encourage more girls and women to embark on exciting STEM courses.

If you’re just as ADAmant, please get in touch.


Booze, pills and mental health

Last year, for the first time, we dedicated an entire month to raising awareness about mental health and wellbeing.

This became known as #mymentalhealthmatters month and fell between the key dates of 10 September (World Suicide Prevention Day) and 10 October (World Mental Health Day).

The purpose was to engage staff and students in conversations about their own and others’ mental health, and this year we are doing the same.

Cara Durnie is the Alcohol and Drug Officer for Ayrshire College, and as mental health issues are something she regularly comes across in this role, she has written the following post for #mymentalhealthmatters month.


When I support people who have problems with alcohol or drug use, I would say more often than not mental health problems pop up too. Some have conditions diagnosed by their GP such as depression, anxiety or bipolar. But many haven’t. Everyone has mental health, and depending what our personal circumstances are, it can at times suffer as a result. Things like relationship breakdowns, money troubles or dealing with sexuality can trigger low mood and/or anxiety problems.

As I was once a student myself, I know how stressful college life can be never mind everything else. You’re thrown in with lots of new people, there is the pressure of studying and passing your course, and if you’re anything like I was – you’re always skint! Therefore it’s important that we have good coping strategies in place to help deal with any life pressures and keep ourselves mentally well.

For some, it can be tempting to use alcohol or drugs as a quick fix for their mood or to escape reality for a while.  It can be an especially vicious cycle for those with a history of mental health problems as any type of psychoactive substance – basically all illegal drugs and alcohol – will change the balance of your mood. How much you’re affected depends on how much and how often you are using. Drugs often make people feel good when using them, but the after effects can result in low mood and anxiety. And there might be other negative feelings linked with this like paranoia or agitation. These feelings are what we have come to know as ‘come downs’ and even those with ‘good’ mental health will experience them.

Have you ever had ‘the fear’ after a night of heavy drinking? OK, it could be that you’ve done something really embarrassing, but these feelings are probably exacerbated because of how your alcohol use has disturbed the balance of the feel-good chemicals in your brain.

Upper drugs such as cocaine (coke, charlie) and ecstasy/MDMA (eccies, mandy) work by releasing LOADS of these feel-good chemicals (a.k.a. serotonin and dopamine) in your brain while using. They make people happy and give them energy. If you’re using drugs that bring your mood up that much though, it WILL come back down again. You’ve used up days’ worth of your feel-good chemicals and a result, your brain is low on these for a few days making your mood crash.

Cannabis (green, skunk, weed, hash) is probably the most common substance students approach me about in the College. It’s received a lot of positive attention in the media recently since it has found to have useful properties that we can use in medicines. Well heroin is also very useful in medicine. Properties from this drug are used in the most effective painkillers we have. Now I am not comparing cannabis effects with heroin, but it makes a good point that it doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe to use it just because it’s used medicinally.

Cannabis is often not classed as a ‘drug’ and people dismiss it. But I can tell you first hand the impact that it has in some people’s lives. Using every now and then is one thing, but building a tolerance resulting in the use of it daily is quite something else. With such differing types and strains available these days – often much stronger and hallucinogenic – it is feared this is linked to an increase in the number of young people experiencing drug-related mental health problems.


But there are other ways in which alcohol or drug use affect users’ mental health as commonly reported to me by those I have worked with.  The world of drugs can be one of mistrust. Having to encounter dealers and owing money can be uneasy for some people. There might be paranoia and worry over being caught by the police too, and what if your career depends on a clean criminal record? Often it also affects people’s relationships – people aren’t as reliable as they once were or maybe there are other changes in their personality. Perhaps they are trying to cover up how much and how often they are using alcohol or drugs to those who care about them.

Taking all this into account, you can understand why there is such a strong link between mental health and substance use. Therefore, it’s a good idea that we all have healthy ways to cope with whatever is going on in our lives.

The NHS recommend 5 steps you can take to ensure your mental wellbeing:

  • Connect – connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spend time developing these relationships.
  • Be active – you don’t have to go to the gym. Take a walk, go cycling or play a game of football. Find an activity that you enjoy and make it a part of your life.
  • Keep learning – learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. So why not sign up for that cooking course, start learning to play a musical instrument, or figure out how to fix your bike?
  • Give to others – even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental wellbeing and help you build new social networks.
  • Be mindful – be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.

There are services available to help with substance misuse and/or mental health problems. If you feel you need some extra support you can contact me at student services or by email:

What more could I possibly want?

Last year, for the first time, we dedicated an entire month to raising awareness about mental health and wellbeing.

This became known as #mymentalhealthmatters month and fell between the key dates of 10 September (World Suicide Prevention Day) and 10 October (World Mental Health Day).

The purpose was to engage staff and students in conversations about their own and others’ mental health, and this year we are doing the same.

Olivia Khan, a Business student on our Ayr Campus, tells the story of a children’s panel she attended just a couple of months after going into foster care.


My mother developed a mental illness and my four siblings and I were taken out of her care for our own safety.

Often, when families experience difficulty and are involved with social work, they have to attend panels to discuss their future.

I looked around the room at all the awkward and nervous faces, unsure where to look. My older sister, my foster dad and three social workers – one I had only met once before for a brief moment; one a stranger to me, albeit a stranger that knew every ugly detail of my family’s life; the third was my social worker, Clare.

I remember when I met her, I thought she was just another social worker trying to split up a family. I hated her and the rest. That was until my first foster parents threw me out, quite literally. I was only given three days’ notice. Dumbfounded is the only word.

Mum had left me, I didn’t know where my brothers or sisters were, and now this. I had no one. That was one of the lowest points of my little life. I felt like that was the first time I really saw Clare. She looked so mad at my carers, she had this concerned look in her eyes that Mum lacked, and most of all she fought for me. She cared and I had her.

I was so grateful for her. She knew more than what was in the files and documents, she knew the family, she went the extra mile, and she was there for us. I’ll never forget the feeling of having someone speak for me when others spoke over me. She was always on my side and had my back when it came to the terminology and jargon. If anyone tried to take advantage of this ‘little girl’ she wouldn’t let it slide.

Anyway, back to the panel, where I was told: “You’ll get contact with your mum three times a week – if she shows up.”

The words echoed through my head as I sat in the undersized, overlit waiting room. Three times a week! That was more than I saw her at home.

My foster Dad sat beside me. He was nervous too, understandably as I was his first foster child and this was his first panel. Poor guy, he wasn’t getting eased in gently that was for sure.

He looked exactly like a dad to me, a big, strong, don’t-mess-with-me sort of guy. The sort of dad that would have come in handy in the past.

I tested him when I first met him. Not a lot of men had positively contributed to my life and my little self wasn’t going to fall for another one. Mum’s boyfriends were the worst, they used to talk to me like I was a child. I despised that. Danny was different and, when I eventually realised that, I had a healthy father-daughter relationship. I guess I have him too.

My big sister squeezed my hand. She looked terrified, I wasn’t sure who was comforting who. I felt like a grown, tired woman trapped in a twelve year old’s body. I always felt like the big sister to her even though she was older by 3 years.

I remember coming home after Primary 5 and seeing her about to retrieve her stuck toast from a toaster with a metal knife. I think I saved her life a few times!

Because she was older she remembered more from the past, I may recall the bright lights of a police car and the nice policewoman taking me to play with the toys while the officer spoke to Mummy, but she remembers it differently. I always felt horrible for that. She’s always there in my memories, distracting my attention, making me laugh, singing really loudly so that I couldn’t hear what was going on around me.

So for that I guess she saved my life a few times too.

My mother’s poor mental health makes me question my own frequently. I worry that when I have children I will not be able to cope and will end up going down a similar, destructive path. I continue to work through these insecurities with the help of my foster and blood-related family.

I knew was going to have to sit in a room with my Mum shortly. I ignored her. I felt a slight pain in my chest after seeing her face again. It made me miss what I had lost. I looked around the room once more. I looked at my strong, protective father figure, my playful, smiling sister and loving Clare. I may have lost a mother but in a way I have gained so much more. What more could I possibly want?

New Campus Countdown: Focus on Social Science

As we continue our countdown to the new Kilmarnock Campus, we turn the curriculum spotlight on Social Science.

Ayrshire College offers the opportunity to study an exciting and diverse range of disciplines from this wide field including psychology, sociology, history, politics, philosophy and criminology.

We caught up with Colin Ross, Curriculum Manager for Education, Sports and Social Science to find out more about Social Science courses and what students can expect when they study with us in our new campus.

Tell us about the Social Science department at Ayrshire College

Social Science, by its very nature, encourages students to develop their understanding of the world in which we live and look at possible solutions to global issues.

We offer a range of courses at the College from NC to HND in areas including primary teaching, social and environmental studies as well as the traditional social sciences.

The Social Science team is dedicated to providing a well-rounded curriculum to our students. This education forms a solid basis on which learners can progress towards their career aspirations via numerous routes, including onward study to degree level and beyond.

We help students develop not only academic skills such as research and writing, but life and work skills that will be invaluable in their future careers.


What initiatives are your team involved with?

The Social Science team have worked to develop strong links with local stakeholders to provide students with the opportunity to help contribute and engage beyond the classroom. This year students will be involved in some of the following;

  • Access to Primary Education students are supporting Heritage Scotland history walks around Kilmarnock with local primary school children and assisting with the Kilmarnock WWI research project as well.
  • HND and HNC Social Science students are delivering a range of social science talks at the Dementia Scotland Resource Centre.
  • Each year the Social & Environmental Studies students provide invaluable support to the Dean Castle Country Park rangers in a range of projects including ecological research and regeneration of the park, many of which have been shortlisted for national awards.


What do you think makes the department successful?

Having staff that are supportive, approachable and deliver engaging courses allows students to realise their full potential. The diverse subject knowledge of the staff maximises the choice for students when deciding on what subject matter they wish to cover.

How important is working with local employers/partners to the department?

The work that the students do with local stakeholders provides support to the community. Working outside of the classroom environment provides another dimension to their learning experience and helps them appreciate the real world applications of social sciences.

What facilities and equipment will the students benefit from at the new Kilmarnock Campus

Students will have access to purpose built classrooms, as well as breakout and touchdown areas where they can work on collaborative projects in a relaxed environment. The range of learning areas and resources will provide opportunities for innovative and diverse learning and teaching. The new leisure and catering facilities will also offer students the opportunity to balance their studies with socialising.

What type of careers can Social Science and Environmental Science courses lead to?

The beauty of the courses within social sciences is that they offer students the opportunity to progress into almost any area they wish. Students have progressed into diverse employment areas ranging from teaching, civil service, journalism, law, health and social care, research, environmental agencies, countryside rangers, media, human resources and many more.

For all the latest information on our new campus development in Kilmarnock click here.

A list of all Social Science related courses can be found by clicking here.

National Coding Week

This week is National Coding Week – an initiative that aims to encourage adults to learn computer coding and other digital skills.

The digital industry is fast becoming the most employable sector in Britain yet it faces a skills gap when it comes to the appropriate expertise.

Children can inspire adults


Children are part of a confident “Digital Generation” having grown up with the internet, smart phones and coding classes.

However, many adults feel they have missed out on the digital revolution and are keen to know more. These include parents, teachers, business leaders, the unemployed, people changing careers and those already employed but wishing to upskill.

Take the first step into a digital career and sign up for an evening class in computing to learn anything from Cyber Security to Getting Started in Social Media.

Computing students have been using Code Academy this week as part of National Coding Week. This is an online interactive platform that offers coding classes in 12 different programming languages.   Find out more information on computing courses at the College.

Children aged 7 to 17 years can teach their grown up to code at the next CoderDojo Ayrshire at the STEM Centre, Dumfries House on 29 September 2016 from 6pm to 7.30pm.  Click here to book.


National Coding Week is the brainchild of Richard Rolfe and Jordan Love of Codex DLD, a tech business that helps adults to make the most of digital opportunities.

Rolfe said, “The UK Government made computer coding compulsory in schools from September 2014 which is great for future generations but does not tackle the skills shortage that exists today. National Coding Week is all about empowering adults to take advantage of digital opportunities. We’d encourage everyone to take part, if I can learn to code aged 51 then anyone can!”

National Coding Week for Adults was launched in September 2014 in a bid to tackle the UK’s growing digital skills shortage.  It has become an annual event where people within the digital industry are being urged to share their expertise with the aim of getting as many adults as possible to learn the basics of coding.

The key aims of National Coding Week are to:

  1. Encourage adults of any age to learn an element of computer coding
  2. Encourage digital experts to share their skills
  3. Collaborate, share, learn and have fun!

This is a great way to get coding whether you are brand new to computing or a digital wizard.

Are you interested in building an app, or making a website, or designing a game, virtual reality, wearable technology, using code to make music or art?   Find out more at


Real men don’t talk, do they?

Last year, for the first time, we dedicated an entire month to raising awareness about mental health and wellbeing.

The month became known as #mymentalhealthmatters month and fell between the key dates of 10 September (World Suicide Prevention Day) and 10 October (World Mental Health Day).

The purpose was to engage staff and students in conversations about their and others’ mental health, and this year we are doing the same.

Steven Fegan, Employability and Engagement Officer at the College, tells his story.

Steven Fegan111.jpg

When I was asked to write a blog for #mymentalhealthmatters month I said “yeah, no problem”.

However, I soon realised that it was much more difficult than I had first anticipated. What did I want to say?

I think it’s important to focus on something that could help people have a better understanding of mental health, and offer a little hope.

First, everyone has a mental health. Like our physical health sometimes we have poor mental health; in fact 1 in 4 people every year will be diagnosed with a mental health condition.

I have been that 1 in 4, and not a million years ago. At one time, I had been an inpatient within the mental health wards of Crosshouse Hospital.

I was admitted there after being treated in the community with the help of a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN), a GP and medication for about 4 months.

The problem was – the GP and CPN were doing all the work and I was adamant that I could be better than I was, and therefore I didn’t see the point in even speaking to them. I realise now that if I had, well, it might not have got to the point where I was admitted. The benefits of hindsight.

So how did it get to that point? Well apart from the fact I wouldn’t entertain the very people that were trying to help me, it was probably the lack of my general coping strategies.

Lots of things happen in life and have an impact; some have positive impacts but, life being the way it is, throws unexpected things at us like a death of someone close, a fall out with a family member or a period of sustained and high level stress at work.

Well that was what it was for me. With all of this going on, I realised that I had no coping strategies whatsoever. I turned to self-harm to deal with all of this emotional strain I had found myself in.

Self-harm is the umbrella term for a behaviour that intentionally harms yourself as a response to emotional strain and comes in a variety of methods, cutting, burning, and pulling hair out for example. I chose cutting, hitting walls and starving myself.

This made it difficult to keep things secret from my family and obviously caused them to become upset which broke my heart all the more. All I have ever done was try to make people, especially those closest to me, happy, and here I was making them cry. It then became a vicious circle; I felt bad so I would self-harm, I would self-harm and then feel bad.

Things all came to a head when I made an attempt on my life.

Everyone, maybe even myself, realised then that things were very serious. All I did more though was push people away. I wanted to end my life. My second suicide attempt led to me being admitted to hospital for my own safety.

After a while I thought that maybe the treatment plan would be worth a shot. I started to talk to the doctors and nurses then began to accept the treatments being offered. You will never guess what happened next – I started to feel better. Strange that.

I started to take part in the interest groups on the ward one of which was an arts and crafts workshop led by Gary McIntyre. Gary is a Creative Industries lecturer at the College. It was down to his help, support, empathy and understanding, that I made my transition from being in hospital to being a college student.

I now have a sense of belonging, a job I enjoy and a mass of tools in my coping tool box. I know that speaking to those I hold closest about the small niggles stops them from growing to annoyances. I now know being honest about my feelings and taking that ‘real man’ mask off isn’t a sign of weakness but instead a sign of a strength greater than any.

However, I would never have got well if it hadn’t been for the amazing support and love shown to me by my wife, her family, my sister and the excellent staff in the Community Mental Health team and in the hospital. There are also a number of people over and above that help keep me well. They are special people to me and hopefully they know that.

My story is not unique, I realised whilst being in hospital that many people with many stories from across Ayrshire are affected by poor mental health. What I also realised and what I want to emphasis to you, is: RECOVERY CAN AND OFTEN DOES HAPPEN!

What helps is having people around you that are willing to just be with you in the moment, not judge you and not fix you. Knowing that you can talk about it openly is a great anxiety relieved and that is why #mymentalhealthmatters is a great initiative.

The sky’s the limit

Written by Katie Ralston, Developing the Young Workforce Communications Officer

A new semester has started at Ayrshire College and, with that in mind, promotion of college courses has already started for next year.

I attended my first UCAS Ayrshire Higher Education Exhibition at the University West of Scotland (UWS) Ayr Campus on 30 August 2016. I was really looking forward to chatting to pupils about what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go.- they didn’t let me down!


I was impressed with the ambition and motivation of young people at the event. It was brilliant to hear about the courses they were thinking of applying to, the companies they wanted to work for, and the occupations they aspired to.

I was expecting the pupils to have some ideas of what they wanted to do and an idea of what course they could take, but their knowledge and drive was extraordinary.

The atmosphere in the canteen of UWS where we were exhibiting was bustling with excitement. Each Ayrshire secondary school was given a time slot for their senior pupils to descend upon the eagerly awaiting exhibitors.

Exhibitors, like us, have two key aims for these kind of events – to make sure that every question is answered to the best of our knowledge and to inspire young people to embark on further and higher education course. Although every exhibitor wants to be the first choice for pupils, their main interest was to support young people to make the best choices for their future.

Speaking with pupils gives them insights into which courses they could pursue when they leave school and, in the case of S4 and S5s, the possibility of taking a college course next year while they are still at school.

Pupils were also given information on what college life is like and how it differs from school. They were eager to find out about what kind of jobs they could pursue if they completed different courses, and what progression pathways are on offer.

All of the pupils that attended the UCAS event are at the same point in their lives – deciding what to do when they leave school, what course to choose to achieve their ambitions, and what to do do if they don’t get their first choice.

This type of event is vital for setting pupils up to make the right choices for their future. With 30 exhibitors from 18 universities, 4 colleges, 2 academies and organisations like the Army and Royal Air Force, the opportunities for Ayrshire’s senior pupils are many and varied.

Pupils left the event with their weight in prospectuses and exhausted from the excitement and planning for their future! It was a great day and, working with our Student Services team, I was delighted that they left with a greater understanding about Ayrshire College.

10 reasons why you should study Engineering


1. Solve problems. Engineers encounter a number of complex problems in their daily role, and they are tasked with finding the solutions. Studying engineering will allow you to become the person who designs and builds machines and structures to the best specifications possible.

2. Get your creative juices flowing! Solving these problems relies on a creative mind. Often you will need to think outside the box, so engineering is an excellent career for creative thinkers.

3. Work with talented people. Don’t worry though, you won’t have to fix it all yourself! Engineers often work in teams with like-minded creative thinkers.

4. Make a difference. Solving these solutions often allows cost-effective machines and structures to be created and maintained which benefit communities. You could make a real difference becoming an engineer.

5. It’s a hands-on job. An engineer’s working environment is definitely not like an office job. The job itself involves a lot of practical work as engineers design and build things.

6. You can earn decent money. If you are looking for a career that pays well, then engineering is definitely for you. There are many engineering roles out there that pay handsomely!

7. Opportunities to advance. There are plenty of opportunities available out there to climb the engineering career ladder, too.

8. You can travel the world. High quality engineers are always in demand. An engineer’s skills can be utilised all over the world, so you would have no problems finding a job overseas, if that’s your preference.

9. You can earn as you learn. Over 800 apprentices were trained at Ayrshire College in 2014/15, the latest figures available. Why not become one of them and combine your work with studying?

10. Enjoy your work. Engineers absolutely the work they do. Don’t believe us? Then hear directly from our students, who have spoken about their time working as apprentices in GSK, Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance, Spirit Aerosystems, and Woodward.