Guest post – Dr Waiyin Hatton on Ayrshire Sportsability 

 Dr Waiyin Hatton is the Chair of Ayrshire Sportsability Charitable Trust and a member of the Board of Management of Ayrshire College. Ayrshire Sportsability recently won the Association of Scottish Businesswomen Best Business Charity Award 2015, citing Ayrshire College as one of its key partners.

In this guest post, Waiyin describes the work of Ayrshire Sportsability.

Ayrshire Sportsability was born in 2001 after I met a group of children at an event organised by Rainbow House at Ayrshire Central Hospital. Their attitude of ‘just get on with it’ was so inspiring that a small group of like-minded people, with a passion for promoting sporting opportunities for youngsters with disabilities, organised the first Ayrshire-wide Come and Try event for 200 youngsters. The relationship between Ayrshire Sportsability and the College started here, with students from the former Kilmarnock and James Watt Colleges helping out as volunteers.

Ayrshire Sportsability has grown from strength to strength, working with partners like Ayrshire College, East, North and South Ayrshire Councils, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, North Ayrshire Leisure, Scottish Disability Sports and Sportscotland. Over five days, the 2015 Come and Try event was attended by 600 youngsters and over 30 adults, including students from the College.

With the College’s support, we organise a range of one-day events to promote sporting pathways, eg athletics, boccia, football, gymnastics, martial arts, racquet sports, swimming, wheelchair-curling and wheelchair-rugby.

Ayrshire Sportsability promotes inclusion by building local capacities in coaching and clubs. We support individuals, clubs and other organisations through our Grant Award Scheme. Celebrating local achievements, Ayrshire Sportsability makes annual awards for Young Athlete, Athlete, Activity in the Community, Active School and Coach. Supporting the 2012 London Paralympics legacy, we introduced the first ever Ayrshire Roll of Honour in Disability Sports to over 30 local disability athletes who have represented Scotland and/or the UK over the last 10 years.

The partnership with the College offers every single sports student the chance to work with diverse groups, not to tick boxes but to provide the students with a meaningful academic experience. Such opportunities also mean vital voluntary hours are accredited to students’ Citizenship through Sport and Volunteering unit. Several students who have volunteered in disability sport are pursuing this as a career.

Ayrshire College has been the essential ingredient in the success and growth of Ayrshire Sportsability. We share the same passion for ‘making a difference’ for people with disabilities through sports. The students’ enthusiasm and professionalism have truly raised the bar at our events.

 We have ambitious plans for the future – increasing the range of sports at festivals, expanding coach development programmes, and supporting more athletes, clubs and schools in the Grant Award Scheme. Plus holding the first ever Ayrshire Para-Games in 2016!

Ayrshire Sportsability relies entirely on donations and sponsorships, making grant applications and fundraising events. With support from the local communities, we continue to realise our aspirations for people with disabilities in sports.

Find out more about Ayrshire Sportsability at


Guest post – John Rainey on the Ayrshire College Foundation

John Rainey has 50 years of experience in Finance, HR, Project Management, and System Development and Implementation. He has held senior positions in Manufacturing, Logistics and Distribution, Sales and Services, Management Consulting and Pharmaceuticals in the UK, Geneva and in the USA. Most recently, he set up his own consultancy company focusing on Change Management.

John served on the Board of Management of the former Ayr College for eight years and was a member of the Ayrshire Partnership Board which managed the merger leading to the creation of Ayrshire College. He is now Chair of the Ayrshire College Foundation. We spoke to John about the Foundation.

Why did you get involved with the project?

I was happy to get involved in the setting up of Ayrshire College Foundation as I’m all for making sure that these kind of projects are given help to get off the ground.

Why was the Ayrshire College foundation set up?

The main reason was to invest in education projects. We want to advance education by providing financial support for projects and activities carried out and supported by Ayrshire College.

What types of project have you funded?

The Foundation made a grant of approximately £3 million to Ayrshire College in 2015 to support the upgrade of Student Services facilities on the Ayr and Kilwinning campuses.

Who can apply for funding?

Anyone can apply as long as they want to promote an educational project within Ayrshire. We will consider any application as long as it is in line with the objectives of the Ayrshire College Foundation.

What kind of projects would be likely to be approved?

There’s a very broad spectrum of projects that could be funded by the Foundation.

A project that we recently approved is Mission Discovery, where school and college students will work with astronaut trainers, rocket scientists and NASA leaders for a week. Mission Discovery is proven to enhance students’ scientific and technological skillsets, while developing innovation and team work. The three Ayrshire local authorities are working with Ayrshire College on this project.

Applications for funding need to fit the criteria of being in Ayrshire and supporting education and training.

If someone has a great idea what process should they follow?

They should submit an application form. If successful, this will be followed up with a face to face interview and a presentation to Foundation trustees.

How long does the process normally take?

Trustees meet every quarter to consider new applications and review progress of funded projects. The process for receiving an application and reaching a decision normally takes between three to six months.

What does it involve?

It’s important that the application has been thoroughly prepared and researched, and includes details such as how much funding is required and the timescales involved. We recommend that applications are submitted at least four months prior to the planned project start date.

Once a project is approved how will it be monitored and evaluated?

During the twelve months after a project is approved, we will be looking for progress reports to let us know to what extent the project’s goals have been achieved and what lessons have been learned.

How do I find out more?

More details about the Ayrshire College Foundation and how to apply for funding are available on our website


Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire

An Ayrshire group set up to develop the young workforce in the region was launched at a conference during Ayrshire Business Week 2015.

The Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire regional group, funded by the Scottish Government, was unveiled on 6 October 2015 by Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training.

The Group’s key aim is to equip young people with the skills and attitudes to help Ayrshire businesses grow and prosper. Explaining the purpose of the new group, the Cabinet Secretary said,

“We want an improved relationship between schools and employers that will allow all of our young people to progress, whatever their background or gender. Young people across Ayrshire’s three local authority areas can look forward the development of fresh career pathways to ensure they are well placed to maximise their potential.”

Launch of Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire (Jim English, Chair of Developing Young Workforce Ayrshire; Iona Murray, Microsoft Apprentice; Alan Lee Bourke, Global Cloud Delivery Executive, Microsoft; Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary Fair Work, Skills and Training; Val Russell, CEO, Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce; Nicole Dunlop, Head Girl, Greenwood Academy)

Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire is being led by the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and will be supported by a dedicated team of staff. Chief Executive Val Russell said,

“Ayrshire Chamber is delighted to be leading the Ayrshire regional group. Working closely with partners in the public, private and third sectors, we will ensure that young people are equipped with the skills and attitudes required to help Ayrshire business grow and prosper.”

The Chair of the new group is Ayrshire industry leader Jim English, General Manager at Hyspec Engineering. Jim said,

“We believe in realising the full potential of our young workforce in Ayrshire through a clear and focused industry-led strategy. We hope to achieve significant change on how we go about this by working collaboratively.”

Ayrshire College is fully behind the Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire group and Vice Principal Jackie Galbraith is the vice chair of the new group. She said,

“Ayrshire College is delighted to support the new Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire group. Strengthening the links between employers and education is critical for Ayrshire’s future and will benefit young people and the regional economy.”

Membership of Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire Steering Group

The new group’s steering group is made up of representatives from the private, public and third sectors. The group met for the first time on 19 October with a great turnout from private, public and third sector employers including Ashleigh Construction, Barclays, Buzzworks, Centrestage, Dustacco, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, QTS, Sercon, Stellar, Trump Turnberry, Utopia Computers, Voca and YipWorld.

In addition all three local authorities, Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce, Ayrshire College, the Federation of Small Businesses, CeeD Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, and JobCentre Plus were represented.

Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire Steering Group

Origin of Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire

In June 2014, the final report of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce set out how to improve opportunities for young people across Scotland and the pivotal role employers should play in developing young people.

In December 2014, the Scottish Government accepted all 39 recommendations in the report and published a 7-year implementation plan in its youth employment strategy, Developing the Young Workforce. The plan outlines key themes for schools, colleges, national agencies and employers with associated actions and key performance indicators.

An important recommendation was the creation of employer led groups to provide leadership and a single point of contact between employers and education. Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire is the regional group for Ayrshire and its focus is to:

  • Encourage and support employers to engage directly with schools and colleges
  • Encourage more employers to recruit more young people.

What will Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire do?

The group aims to ensure that young people develop the skills and positive attitudes required to take the next steps towards the world of work. It will work closely with the 26 secondary and associated 137 primary schools, 11 ASN schools and all campuses of Ayrshire College.

Building on the foundations of well-established employer engagement at school and college level in Ayrshire, the group will ensure that all young people reach their full potential, nurture the confidence to develop career and vocational interests including entrepreneurship and ambition.

Activities taken forward by the group could include:

  • Encouraging employers to offer quality work experience placements for school and college students
  • Working with schools guidance teachers and career advisers to support the delivery of careers education
  • Persuading employers to recruit more young people, including Modern Apprentices
  • Simplifying engagement by working with micro and small employers, local authorities, schools and Ayrshire College
  • Establishing school/employer partnerships across in secondary schools
  • Enhancing the links between vocational education provision and needs of the local, regional and national economy
  • Promoting the Investors in Young People accolade to employers
  • Promoting the youth equality agenda to employers
  • Creating an Ambassador Programme to share best practice and celebrate success
  • Removing  barriers, perceived or otherwise, to employer engagement
  • Communicating with students, teachers, parents and employers
  • Developing an accessible and inclusive strategy to improve opportunities young people moving into the workplace

Want to know more?

If you want to find out more about Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire contact Claire Baird at the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce by email at or visit the website  

Let’s make science the new cookery!

 On Tuesday 13 October in a galaxy not so far away at Edinburgh Napier University, astrophysicist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE delivered the university’s first Ada Lovelace lecture – Women in Science: The Challenge. 

In the audience were Rachel Adamson from the Scottish Funding Council and Jackie Galbraith from Ayrshire College. Here is a summary of what they took away from the lecture.

Maggie talked about her three-pronged approach to encouraging young people into science and technology –

  • Role models – who don’t need to, indeed shouldn’t, be perfect. Maggie believes that the critical skill of a role model is to share experience and knowledge
  • Relevance – where the contribution of science, engineering and technology is demonstrated by meaningful examples which young people can relate to
  • Wonder – encouraging curiosity and exploration of ideas.

But, we have a problem. A problem which Maggie summed up as a ‘societal PR problem’. According to Maggie, science, technology and engineering suffer from an image of being ‘pale, male and stale’, with significant women scientists and mathematicians invisible in most classrooms.

She highlighted the achievements of historical and current day female scientists including Marie Curie, who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, and the only person to win twice in multiple sciences. 

Possibly more disconcerting and damaging is the image of science, engineering and technology as irrelevant, with the portrayal in this Dilbert video one which many parents and young people identify with.

To overcome these negative perceptions, when she speaks to young people in schools, Maggie shares three things with them –

  1. Why she became a scientist
  2. How she became a scientist
  3. What she does as a scientist

What inspired the 3-year-old Maggie to become a scientist was the Clangers and a desire to travel to space to meet them! 

This desire kept her motivated throughout her school life and, despite having undiagnosed dyslexia as a child, she graduated with a BSc in physics and a PhD in mechanical engineering from Imperial College London. 

As a scientist, she has worked for the Ministry of Defence on projects ranging from missile warning systems to landmine detectors.

Up, up and away!

Introducing her lecture, Maggie said that we live in ‘scientifically exciting times’, which she illustrated very well in her presentation. She concluded that ‘science has the power to unite us’ if we adhere to the statement in the photo below of her daughter.

Food for thought – Could science be the new cookery?

Maggie was hopeful that we could soon see as many TV programmes on science as we currently have on cookery and that there might be as much excitement and interest generated by them! 

But how might such interest come about? 

As Maggie said, we need to address the ‘societal PR problem’. As part of this, Jackie and Rachel are working together with people from across Scotland to develop a Gender Action Plan setting out actions to achieve gender equality within Scottish colleges and universities. 

Some of these actions will be focused on tackling the shortage of women in science, engineering and technology as well as the lack of men in other subjects, such as teaching and early years care. 

With colleges and universities working with schools to provide pupils with positive role models, who show them the relevance of STEM to their own lives and instil in them wonder and curiosity for all things scientific, how long will it be before we have the Great British Science Off

We think Maggie would make a great host!


This Ayrshire Girl Can-Do STEM!

Ayrshire College means business when it comes to addressing gender imbalance in subject areas where women are under-represented. 

The College also supports the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan campaign initiated by the Ayrshire College Student Association, which focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and sport.


An important aspect of our work every year is to promote female students who are building a career in traditionally male-dominated sectors. Find out how Tammy, Carra and Amanda are forging their engineering careers with the help of the College.

Tammy Niven, manufacturing apprentice at  GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Irvine, has just completed her HNC in manufacturing.

“I was in 5th year at school when I saw the advert for GSK apprenticeships and it really appealed to me. As I looked into it, manufacturing was the field that looked right for me, so I applied for that. A manufacturing apprenticeship at GSK is much more than working on a production line. You’re part of a really important process.

“I’m enjoying the course. I really like physics although it is really hard, but I think the challenge is what I like about it.”

Twenty year old Carra Woods is an apprentice fabricator and welder at Wallace McDowall in Ayr.

“When the apprenticeship vacancy came up, I applied for it through the college because I did my SVQ Level 2 there. I’m in the first year of my apprenticeship and come to college one day a week. 

“During the four days in the workshop, it’s constant work – we’re building everything! Although we don’t get to do all the jobs because we’re still learning, we get a shot at most jobs!

“The best part of the job is proving everyone wrong by being a girl! It was scary at the start, but I knew I was going into a male-dominated working environment so it didn’t really bother me too much. I’m just going to prove to everyone that I can do it!”

Before she came to Ayrshire College, Amanda O’Hara worked as a cabin crew member with EasyJet.

“This where my interest in aviation started. When we were working we were always having technical problems, so that got me more and more interested in the engineering side of things. I would ask the engineers what was happening, what was going on. 

“My cabin crew background has been really useful on my course because I already know a lot of the terminology.”


Celebrating women programmers – past, present and future

Ada Lovelace Day – 13 October 2015

Ada Lovelace Day is about celebrating women engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians role models who inspire other girls and women. 

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ada Lovelace who is widely held to have been the first computer programmer. Close friends with inventor Charles Babbage, Lovelace was intrigued by his Analytical Engine and in 1842 at the age of 27 she wrote several early ‘computer programmes’. 

Despite the first computer programmer being a woman and female coders playing a big part in wartime and the post-war era, gender imbalance poses a major challenge in today’s IT industry, where women make up just 13 per cent of tech specialists in the workforce.        

So, on a day dedicated to promoting women in science, engineering and technology, meet Dr Claire Quigley and find out what inspired her career in computing. 

Claire studied Computing Science at Glasgow University. She is a Project Officer for CoderDojo Scotland at the Glasgow Science Centre, where she supports the CoderDojo network of computer coding clubs for young people across Scotland. In partnership with the College, Claire helped to establish Coderdojo Ayrshire, one of the most active coding clubs for young people in Scotland.

Dr Claire Quigley

Her experience includes working at Glasgow and Cambridge Universities, being part of a team which developed and ran an interactive coding experience at CBBC Live, and being one of the authors of a ‘Help Your Kids with Computer Coding’, a book introducing children to programming.

What inspired you to get involved in computing and make a career from it?

I wasn’t interested in computing at all as a teenager – I thought it was all to do with games, which I also had no interest in. It wasn’t until my second year studying physics at Glasgow University that I took an extra course aimed at allowing you to wire up your experiments to a computer and program it to do the measurements. This appealed to me as, while I liked and was good at the theoretical side of the course, I didn’t enjoy the labs and struggled to get my measurements accurate enough.  

After reading a bit of the text book and writing a few programs I realised that programming wasn’t necessarily all about games. In fact it seemed more like a “live action” version of the bits of maths that I enjoyed: taking a problem and turning it round in your head until you saw how all the pieces fitted together. Then writing a program to make the computer do things to produce the answer to the problem. I soon realised I enjoyed programming much more than physics and switched courses to Computing Science.

As a woman in the IT industry, what challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge I’ve faced is that people occasionally assume that I’m not a programmer because I’m a woman. However, apart from that, I’ve found programmers to be friendly people to work with from all different backgrounds. Most of them are just interested in getting things to work, and finding new ways of doing that. Gender is not usually an issue at all.

Describe your job on a day to day basis. What are the highlights?

My job varies quite a lot from day to day, which is one of the things I enjoy about it. Tasks vary from emailing people to organising workshops or Dojos, meeting people to discuss the possibility of them setting up a Dojo or working with us on a project, writing code and worksheets that we’ll use at workshops, or actually running a workshop.   

Highlights are probably the days when I get to actually run a workshop I’ve been planning and see people engage with it. I also enjoy working on ideas for projects that combine different areas of science with programming with my colleagues in the science centre or arts with people from other projects in the city. 

What would you say to a girl or woman who was considering a career in IT?

Go for it – and keep in mind that there are more and more careers that use programming. From medicine, to wearable technology, science, games and art, programming is a tool to help you make things happen in the area you’re interested in.  

Inspiring the next genetation of programmers

Ayrshire College holds Coderdojo clubs throughout the year in venues across Ayrshire. Two are now open for booking –

  • Tuesday 20 October at the College’s Kilwinning Campus from 6-8pm  
  • Thursday 26 November at Dumfries House in Cumnock from 6-8pm

If you know a young person aged 7 to 17 who is interested in learning to code, book online at



New Campus Countdown: Focus on Construction

The countdown is on until the official opening of our new campus in Kilmarnock’s Hill Street. Each month we plan to unveil a new curriculum area in the new campus as we hear from employers, lecturers and students about their hopes for the campus and how the sector will evolve. This month, the spotlight is on Construction Technology and Trades.

Graeme Donaldson is the Curriculum Manager for Trades and splits his time between the College’s Kilmarnock and Kilwinning campuses. To help us countdown to the new campus, Graeme spoke to us about the construction curriculum area in the College, what the College expects of its construction students and what he is most looking forward to from the new campus.

The Construction department sits within the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] directorate in the College. In Kilmarnock, our construction courses are delivered in our Townholm satellite campus. The main courses taught in Townholm are Brickwork, Carpentry and Joinery, and Painting and Decorating at a range of levels. The department also delivers a Construction Craft National 4 course to East Ayrshire secondary school pupils.

The construction sector employs over 8% of the UK workforce and is a growing industry with more than 182,000 new jobs promised by 2018. We asked Graeme to describe the main skills that students need to succeed within this industry:

“One of the main skills which students need to succeed is to show a keen interest in the construction sector. Courses contain a large amount of practical work, and students need to be fairly fit and prepared to carry out manual tasks and activities. At the College students will also receive plenty of theory based work to expand their knowledge and understanding of their trade specific course.

Throughout all our courses, we aim to embed a range of transferable skills like timekeeping, attendance, the ability to follow instructions, solve basic problems and learn basic industry skills. There are great chances for students to progress to a higher level of study if they have the right mind set and are committed to enhancing their skills and personal development.

It is also important that students cooperate with curriculum and service staff to achieve the best learning experience possible to set them up for their future career.”

Graeme believes that the courses offered by Ayrshire College are a great starting block for students with ambitions of a future career within the industry:

“In order to help students as best we can, we help them to develop the transferable skills that employers are looking for. We also make sure that there are progression routes in place for students to ensure they get the most out of their time with us.

In the Carpentry and Joinery Level 5 course, we will be sending students on industrial work placements for four weeks. During their month long experience they get the chance to experience a realistic working environment, allowing them to gain a much more detailed insight into the daily structure of their chosen trade. At the moment we are hoping to provide work placements with East Ayrshire Council’s Building and Works department with the hope of expansion for the near future.

If students excel during their placement and the company has an upcoming vacancy, we work together to help the student apply for the position. This is a great opportunity for students to experience what their industry is like and help them put the skills learnt in class into action. It is also great for local businesses, the local community and the economy.”

Looking ahead, the new Kilmarnock Campus in Hill Street will be home to over 100 construction students. With more facilities available to students and staff, Graeme can’t wait until the doors are opened in eleven months’ time.

“As the clock ticks down, I am very much looking forward to construction staff and students being part of the wider College community. The new Kilmarnock Campus will bring construction students together with students from other curriculum areas which I believe will add to our students’ learning experience.”  

In the new campus, construction facilities will include brickwork project space; brickwork workshops; joinery machine shop; two joinery workshops and painting and decorating workshops. The prospect of working in such surroundings is also striking an excited chord with Graeme.

“A big advantage of the new campus will be the bespoke trade workshops and state of the art theory classrooms which can only enhance the student experience during their time with us. We will continue to deliver a range of courses to meet industry standards which allow students the chance to gain sufficient practical skills and consolidate their knowledge.

“With more than a third of people working in the construction industry becoming their own boss, the opportunities open to students don’t just end when they graduate from their chosen course. Some students progress to a higher level, some are interested in construction management and some are eager to be let loose on the outside world.

“There are many different options for students within this sector and the new Kilmarnock campus will enhance these even further. It really is an exciting time for the students of Ayrshire College!”

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