Young people building an enterprising Ayrshire

At a recent meeting of the Ayrshire branch of the Federation of Small Businesses Jackie Galbraith, Vice Principal for Strategy, Performance and Planning at Ayrshire College met some of Stewarton Academy’s Young Enterprise team. Here’s what they had to say.

Stewarton Academy’s young entrepreneurs

Why did you set up the company?

We set up the company as part of Young Enterprise to gain valuable experience in the world of business, and to learn a bit about what it takes to run a small enterprise. The experience has allowed us to get an insight into all aspects of business such as sales, creativity, finance and management in real life situations. It has been really enjoyable so far.

What are you aiming to do with it?

First and foremost, like all businesses, we are looking to make a profit. We aim to produce and sell quality products in the local area and beyond. We are aiming to complete the young enterprise project as the most successful team in Ayrshire. Hopefully we will convey to an audience our great triumphs and successes, as well as our solutions to the many problems that have occurred over the past year.

Who is involved in the team and in what roles?

We currently have 10 team members – two specialising in Finance, two Managing Directors, two Sales people, one HR, one Operations Director, one Corporate Secretary and one Computing Expert. Between us, we have all the essential aspects of business covered.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

We have had to overcome numerous challenges. Firstly, our first batch of portable chargers didn’t arrive until long after we needed them, and we had to order an emergency stop gap from a UK supplier. We now always use UK suppliers to avoid long delivery times and high costs. We also lost our design and marketing director at a crucial time, but thankfully our corporate secretary created an excellent design which we now use on our bags for life.

Tell me a little bit about yourselves – what you’re studying and what you plan to do on leaving school?

Jonathan (Chief Executive Officer) – The world of business and finance fascinates me, so I applied for university courses in that field. I have received an unconditional for my first choice course (Business Enterprise and Finance at Strathclyde) which I look forward to studying. Ideally I want to be a trader (stocks and shares) for a big bank, but I can definitely see myself running a business at some point in the future.

Niall (Chief Operating Officer) – I hope to study international business. From a young age I have had a keen interest in business and this project has concreted my desire to become a successful business person. It has also helped to prove that not everyone will agree with your approach to business and that you have to adapt in order to suit the best interests of the company.

Arran (Chief Finance Officer) – I plan on studying mechanical engineering at university after sixth year. I aim one day to work for a successful engineering company in Scotland, with the possibility of running or helping manage a company.

What advice you would give to others interested in setting up a company?

Running a business as part of young enterprise will be extremely beneficial to you, as it provides real world experience and looks great when applying for jobs. In hindsight, I would have loved to have been told that compromise is an essential role in setting up a company. It’s not too complex, mostly common sense, but it would surprise you how many mistakes we made when setting up. I am quite certain other start-ups have faced similar problems. Plan your business carefully and start as soon as you can as timing is crucial.

One of the products designed by the Stewarton team

Business Enterprise in East Ayrshire

East Ayrshire Council’s Business Enterprise Fund sparked the launch of Business Enterprise and Skills Centres in all of the area’s nine secondary schools. Each school has selected initiatives and programmes to suit the requirements and talents of students to help make them ready for a bright future in the world of work.

Programmes are backed by accredited qualifications at a range of levels up to Higher. These make young people more desirable to employers and develop their personal awareness and skills like communication, teamworking and leadership. Local business leaders play a great part by acting as role models, offering their experience and support in mentoring students and backing this ambitious education initiative.

Find out more about East Ayrshire Business Enterprise


Feedback from the Class of 2014

In this third and final blog post from Stewarton Academy student Kirsty McMillan, who completed a week’s work experience with the College’s Marketing Team on 5 December 2014, she analyses feedback from this year’s graduates of Ayrshire College.

While I was undertaking work experience at Ayrshire College, I was asked to work through the feedback collected from this year’s graduates about what they had enjoyed during their time at college and what they would have changed to improve their time here. Reading these comments helped me see first-hand how the college is taking account of students’ opinions to create a better environment for learning.

One graduate summed up her experience by saying “Ayrshire College helps you achieve your goals and is always there to keep you motivated. It’s a great place to learn.” This shows the faith that students have in the college and proves that the hard work from the staff is extremely beneficial in increasing the numbers of students going on to graduate, find work or move on to university.

After reading the comments, I used the online application ‘Wordle’ to create a visual representation of the views from graduates in different subject areas. I displayed the names of the course the biggest word and then Wordle put all of the phrases from the comments around it with the most commonly used word being shown as next biggest from the course name. Words which were common across all of the courses included ‘achieve’, ‘supportive’, ‘dreams’ and ‘opportunities’.

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Wordles from some of the courses

It is clear from this feedback that the students appreciate the opportunities and assistance that they have access to at college to achieve their goals. It also shows that students are proud and admirable of the hard work the staff at the college put in to give them the best start for their future.

The College’s vision is to raise aspirations, inspire achievement and increase opportunities. It achieves this by teaching the students their chosen courses and by helping them to develop essential skills for acquiring jobs. The College works very closely with local communities to create collaborations to assist students to find jobs in local businesses after graduating, which also helps the local economy grow. Staff tackle inequalities by removing barriers to learning to enable students to reach their full potential and improve their quality of life.


Take off by launching a career in tourism!

Kirsty McMillan is in her 6th year at Stewarton Academy and plans to study events management at university. She spent a week on work experience with the marketing team at Ayrshire College and one of her tasks was to write a blog promoting travel and tourism courses.

During my week of work experience at Ayrshire College, I interviewed Travel and Tourism lecturer Angela McCallum about how studying courses like An Introduction to Activity Tourism (Level 4) can lead to exciting job prospects with many opportunities.

Angela started as a holiday rep in Switzerland and worked her way up the ranks of the tourism industry through her hard work and passion. She explained to me that tourism is an ever expanding sector across the world. Discrediting concerns that jobs in this sector are all seasonal or low paid, she explained that it is an extremely valued profession. There are broad horizons for students after they graduate such as working on cruise ships and becoming holiday reps, tour managers or product managers.

As a product manager, you need to pitch creative ideas and put them together through negotiating prices, creating contracts and planning flights. The demand for activity holidays has grown greatly in recent years with opportunities for winter and summer sports, water sports and holiday retreats. These have helped the tourism industry in Scotland and the UK boom. Product managers constantly have to look out for the trends from films and TV series, and use popular interests to create unique activities such as visits to the castle featured on ‘Downtown Abbey’. Scotland has benefited greatly from the influence of movies such as ‘Brave’ and ‘World War Z’ and events like the Commonwealth Games on tourists. For every £1 that Scotland invests into the tourism industry, we get more than £20 back. This expansion of tourism in Scotland provides many jobs for graduates and there are over 350 businesses in Scotland in adventure tourism alone.

Angela describes a course and job in tourism as opening the student’s eyes to the big box of chocolates that is the world. It helps them to meet new people and expand their minds while learning about new cultures. Employers are looking for passionate people with enthusiastic, can-do attitudes. Ayrshire College helps their students achieve this through creating real and live experiences to learn from. Examples of this are the various trips and guest speakers brought in for the students to receive inspiration and motivation from.

Travel & Tourism - Airport Visit

These activities include visits to Glasgow airport, a Skype call to award winning travel agent Helen Furlong and presentations from British Airways cabin crew. Later this month, students will visit Glasgow to see how tourism is growing in the city. They will meet the HR Manager of the Radisson hotel and visit the Glasgow Christmas market to see how it is attracting tourists.  These engaging activities, combined with passionate lecturers, create the perfect learning environment for the students to gain the necessary skills and experience for a job in this exciting profession.

With tourism jobs sometimes being dismissed as not a true profession, Angela is eager to prove how valuable a qualification in the sector can be. She said “I started as a resort rep and my career progressed to senior management level, where my teams and I looked after 200,000 clients with a turnover of£76 million. Working in tourism is most definitely a profession where the sky is literally the limit!”

At the College students experience outstanding training which ensures that their clients have a great experience while under their responsibility. Many benefits are reaped from securing a job in this sector as students have the chance to gain new skills such as skiing, languages and many more, as well as getting to travel to exciting places. I would highly recommend the An Introduction to Activity Tourism (Level 4) course as students gain vital employability skills for a thriving sector with many and varied employment opportunities.

The course starts in January at the College’s Ayr Campus. Click here for more information.



With great hair comes great responsibility

Kirsty McMillan is in her 6th year at Stewarton Academy and plans to study events management at university. She spent a week on work experience with the marketing team at Ayrshire College and describes her first couple of days below.


During my work experience week I was extremely privileged to attend a hairdressing seminar held by world-renowned hair stylist Simon Shaw. As the European Artistic Director of Wahl (UK) Ltd, he is widely known throughout the hairdressing community for his innovative and fun approach to teaching. His career has spanned 24 years and in this time he has held over 1000 seminars throughout the UK and 200 globally. He was also the first British hairdresser to undertake a hugely successful tour of Saudi Arabia.

Simon’s seminar was aimed at hairdressing students and he spoke about how ‘with great hair comes great responsibility’. Whilst demonstrating a wide range of techniques using products from Wahl UK Ltd, he told the audience about his own career development. It was an extremely motivational seminar for the students, who related to Simon as he started his career by studying hairdressing at college. He was inspirational and showed what can be achieved by working hard at college to become a successful and talented hair stylist.


I thought that Simon engaged well with his audience, answering questions while demonstrating on models picked from the audience. His humorous approach and use of music to display his various techniques was an entertaining way to convey these approaches. Having such a prestigious guest speaker was a great example of how the College strives to provide the best learning environment and opportunities for students to gain broader knowledge of their subject outwith lectures and practical courses.


As well as showing me the great lengths that Ayrshire College goes to in order to have the highest quality of learning for its students, I experienced first hand the large amounts of planning that goes into running an event in a college with such high standards. The seminar with Simon Shaw helped me appreciate how the planning of such events has the potential to improve education and opportunities for others.

My work experience at Ayrshire College has been very relevant to the events management course that I will be studying at university and has helped put into practice some of what I will be learning.

Find out more about Simon Shaw at