School – College Partnership Programme: Early Education and Childcare: Skills for Work (Level 5)

In the next of our series exploring school / college programmes we meet Rebecca Nix, 16 from Kyle Academy and Amanda Barr, 16 from Prestwick Academy. They are studying L5 Early Education and Childcare two days a week. We’ve been following their progress so far.


Why did you choose the Early Education and Childcare course?

Rebecca – I’ve always wanted to work with younger children so I thought it would be a good course to take to help me be one step ahead, while I’m still at school.

Amanda – I’m really fond of children, just looking after my wee cousins. Also my mum works with children, and I see how much she loves her job, so I feel encouraged by that.

Tell me about the course. What have you both been doing so far?

Amanda – On Wednesdays we do ‘play’ work, things like learning how to make things that kids can play with. Fridays we do child development and theory.


What have you enjoyed the most?

Rebecca – I really do enjoy learning about the milestones and development of children. It helps me to understand the different stages of early childhood, which is great.

Amanda – Learning new ideas, making stuff, and what children actually experience. The psychology of kids is really interesting as it’s really helpful to know what things they might be interested in at different ages.

What’s been the most challenging aspect?

Amanda – Definitely the tests are the most challenging. Trying to remember everything we’ve learnt over the last few months is the hardest bit. It’s useful though as it’s a taste of what to expect at college, and the way we would do assessments.

How does attending the college course work with attending school?

Rebecca – For me it works out well. I get a bus from Prestwick Academy, it’s no bother at all.

Amanda – I never knew we would do so much, and it’s really good fun. I like that it’s something you can try while at school. Feels like it sets me up for what I want to do when I leave. I feel a bit more prepared now.

How does college compare to school?


Rebecca – It’s a lot more fun and more relaxed. It’s as if you’re given more responsibility, which is great.

Amanda – I like that I’ve got more friends now from different schools. There’s only 11 of us in the class, but I’ve made great friends already. It’s also good to call the lecturer by their first name!

What are your ambitions?

Amanda – I want to continue with this kind of course at a higher level. I find it interesting and it’s definitely what I want to do. I see myself working in a nursery school nursery.

Rebecca – I’ve always wanted to work with younger children that have special needs. At the moment I go to Fib Youth Theatre – it’s a drama club. I help out with the younger kids there. We helped with an enabled show one time, and I really want to specialise in this area of early education.

How did you become the class rep?

Rebecca – I’ve always volunteered for that kind of thing through school, so I just thought why not? It was nice to get voted in by the class.

School-College Partnership Programme: Callum Stewart, Cherona Clark and Cole Archibald on Uniformed Services

In the next of our series exploring school / college programmes we meet Cherona Clark from Cumnock Academy, and Cole Archibald and Callum Stewart both from James Hamilton Academy. These 4th year pupils from Ayrshire are all studying a Uniformed Services course as part of their school curriculum by attending college two half days a week. This has been their experience so far.

Why did you choose this course?

Cherona: My Head Teacher, Mrs Cassidy, told me about the College courses that were available. I went along to an open day and had a tour of the department. I’m quite a sporty person and I’m thinking of joining the Police in the future so I thought this would be a good course to choose.

Cole: I am good at PE and I play football for the Crosshouse under 16’s team. My Guidance Teacher helped me to choose my course and we thought this one would suit me best.

Callum: I picked it as I thought it would be a good thing to have on my CV as I want to join the Police.

What have you been doing on the course so far?


Cherona: We do lots of different sports; volleyball, football, badminton, table tennis, circuit training and fitness testing. The Psychology students work with us and they are our mentors. Rebecca is my mentor and it’s great having her here as it makes me feel part of the College.

Cole: Various sports and fitness classes including a 12 minute run each week. The HNC Sports Coaching students work with us which is good as they motivate you to work hard. It makes you feel more included – like a real student.

Callum: You get to try different sports and take part in fitness tests. We’ve also just been given a homework task – pick two uniformed services and find out all about them. I liked doing that. We get to work with the full time students. It’s a great experience and I’ve learned a lot from them already.


How does it fit in with your school?

Cherona: I come here Tuesdays and Thursdays between 2pm – 4pm. I get the bus from Cumnock. We are given a bus pass so we don’t need to pay for our fare. I also come 1pm-2pm to practice with the College ladies football team. I already play for the Kilmarnock Football Club for girls. I used to play for Cumnock Juniors, where I was spotted and invited to play for Kilmarnock.

Cole/Callum: We just walk over from James Hamilton Academy at lunchtime. College goes on later than school but that is fine with us!

How does College compare to school? What are the similarities / differences?

Cherona: I don’t really like school. I prefer College. There is a different atmosphere here; I feel more respected. You get to call the lecturers by their first name. Dave is not as strict as my teachers at school however he sets boundaries and everyone knows not to step over them.

In school the classes are 50 minutes long whereas here one class lasts two hours with a ten minute break. It’s much better. College is a mix of active classes and time in the computer rooms.


Cole: The differences are all the students are older, they are friendlier and I get along better with the other students and staff compared to school. Similarities would be the computing class is a bit like school.

Callum: I like the staff here – Dave is a really cool guy. They definitely treat us more maturely at College.

What have you enjoyed the most?

Cherona: I’ve enjoyed meeting new people. I get on well with the staff and this positive relationship helps me to feel better about myself. I feel I am doing well on this course and I think I will achieve success with it. I don’t feel this way about the National 5’s I’m studying at school.

Cole: I’ve really enjoyed all the sports and getting a chance to try new ones. My favourite is football as this is my main hobby.

Callum: I’ve enjoyed trying all the sports and working with the HNC students. I’ve made new friends here. I don’t play sports outside school/college I love technical theatre and I am a member of Centrestage.

What have you found most challenging?

Cherona: Just coming here on my own at first. It’s a long way from Cumnock and I was nervous about finding the College myself and meeting new people. I didn’t know what to expect.


Cole: I haven’t really found anything difficult. I was a bit nervous at first because I did not know anyone. But I made friends on my first day. For people coming here next year I would say don’t worry you will get on really well because everyone is really friendly.

Callum: It’s not what I thought it would be like. I thought we would be sitting in a classroom. It’s 90% practical and 10% classroom. This helps me learn and it keeps me fit as well.

Rocking around the Christmas tree


It’s that time of year again when we start to imagine ourselves by a log fire, a sparkling star at the top of the tree sipping mulled wine while watching “Miracle on 34th Street” for the hundredth time.

Yes it’s nearly Christmas folks!

Guest blogger, Travel and Tourism student Cheryl McWhirter, gives us a whistle-stop tour of Christmas events to get you right in the festive mood.

Glasgow Christmas Market

Take a stroll to the atmospheric annual Christmas Market at St Enoch Square in Glasgow. Pull on your hat and woolly scarf and enjoy a continental lunch washed down with a few beers and some mulled wine.

Trading times for the market are:

• Monday – Wednesday 10am -8pm
• Thursday – Saturday 10am- 9pm
• Sunday – 10am – 6pm

For the more adventurous, check out offers at Thorne Travel that include trips to the Christmas markets in Paris, Prague, Amsterdam and a Christmas shopping trip to Toronto.

Panto Time

Christmas isn’t complete without a pantomime and this year Ayr Gaiety Theatre is showing Jack and the Beanstalk. The show runs started on the 1st December. “Oh no it didn’t”, “Oh yes it did!” and runs until the 4th of January with tickets priced from £10.00 – £18.50.

Party Day at the Races

On 21st December Ayr Racecourse will be hosting a party day with races. After the races have been run, you can party away to the live band Dakota.

This event will get you right in the mood for Christmas. Prices start at £18.00 and the first race is at 12.30pm with gates opening at 11.00am.

And finally…….

When all the festivities are over and you’re feeling sluggish from over indulgence get yourself down to Prestwick Esplanade for a wee ‘Dip wi a Nip‘ on Boxing Day.

This is an event held for charity where you are asked to raise about £100.00 in sponsorship (EASY PEASY) for CLIC Sargent.

Registration is free and the event is held on Prestwick Esplanade at 2pm. For further details please contact:
May Gilchrist 01292 692113 or email

Happy Christmas


School-College Partnership Programme: Hospitality: Professional Cookery

In the second of our series, we’ll be following the progress of Adam Green from Belmont Academy and Ashleigh Read from Kyle Academy studying Hospitality: Professional Cookery at the Ayr campus.


Why did you choose the Hospitality course?

Ashleigh – I enjoy cooking at home and I know that once I leave school I really want to work in the hospitality industry. I want to try a bit of everything, and just really get the experience I need, so doing this course while at school seemed like a good start.
Adam – I like that we can ‘try out’ a career in Hospitality by doing this course. It’s definitely giving me more of an idea about what I’d like to do when I leave school.

Tell me about the course. What have you both been doing so far?

Ashleigh – We have been getting an idea of how to work in an industrial kitchen, we’re getting the hang of it now. It’s a great experience and will be great for our CV.
Adam – We do assessments along the way, like learning about the strict hygiene standards in the industry and how important that is.

What have you enjoyed the most?

Ashleigh – Getting to do a dish that you’ve never done before, tasting it, getting it right and perfecting it.

Adam – I enjoy being able to work in a proper kitchen. The different dishes you get to make and the variety of skills you get to learn. We have been making different canapés for events that are on at the college. We helped to make about 800 canapés the other week! Everything is on a much bigger scale than at school.

We also helped to make food for the James Bond event at the Ayrshire Hospice. To go from a classroom, to getting to be able to help prepare and serve the food at big events like these is great.

What’s been the most challenging aspect?

Ashleigh – It feels a bit more stressful. At school, cooking is much more laidback. Here, it feels like a real restaurant kitchen, so you try your hardest to get it right.

How does attending the college course work with attending school?

Adam – We come here twice a week and usually cook on a Thursday. I think its more laidback than school. You feel more responsible for your work and I feel that this makes me want to do well. I like school, but I really like my college experience so far.


How does college compare to school?

Ashleigh – I like being the Class Rep. We are the spokespeople for the rest of the class in college, so if they have anything they want to ask or have any worries, they can speak to us first if they want to, and we’ll speak to the lecturers on their behalf.
Adam – It’s just different at college. You learn lots more about the different sides of hospitality, like cooking, serving and practical skills. We’re more responsible for our own work here.


What are your ambitions?

Ashleigh – I enjoy cooking at home and I know that once I leave school I really want to work in the hospitality industry. I want to try a bit of everything, and just really get the experience I need.
Adam – I see myself working back of house, in the kitchens as a chef. Just really see myself working in the hospitality industry now.
We will catch up with Ashleigh and Adam in February to find out how they are progressing on the course.

School-College Partnership Programme: Jacob Adamson on Performing Engineering Operations

We want to talk to you about our School-College Partnership Programme. Or rather, let the pupils talk to you about it.

This year S4, S5 and S6 pupils from across Ayrshire are able to enhance their employability and progression pathways by attending a college course that complements their school subjects.

Qualifications on offer include Skills for Work, National Progression Awards, National Certificates and National Qualifications. 

We’ll be following the progress of a number of pupils – who are studying a range of courses – at different stages of the programme to show how the College’s partnership with Ayrshire secondary schools works, and how coming to college while you’re at school could work for you (or if you’re a parent reading this – your daughter/son).

16-year-old Jacob Adamson from St. Matthew’s Academy is first up to give us his initial impressions of his Performing Engineering Operations course at the Skills Centre of Excellence in Irvine. This qualification underpins the new Engineering Foundation Apprenticeship.


First of all Jacob, why did you choose the Performing Engineering Operations (PEO) course?

Mainly because I’m interested in engineering – especially electrical engineering. I thought this would be the best place for me to work towards getting an apprenticeship.

How were you made aware of the PEO?

It was actually my Mum, who works at the College, who first made me aware of it. I talked it over through the school with guidance teachers and we decided that this was the best route for me.

Talk to me about the course. What have you been doing so far?

We’re in two days a week from 9am to 3/4pm depending on how much work we’re getting through.

On Thursdays it’s mainly electrical work and then on Fridays it’s a lot of metalwork and computing, which is when we plan the technical parts of the course and also work on our CVs.

For the electronic tasks we’re learning how to wire up sockets, plugs and switches and learning how they work. It’s very interesting and useful to know – even just for using in your own house.

The metalwork has predominantly been showing us how to use the hammer, the hacksaw and some filing work.


What have you enjoyed the most?

Although the metalwork is great fun I’d say the electrical work is my favourite part of the course.

But also meeting new people and having that extra responsibility. It’s great – I love everything about it really.

What’s been the most challenging aspect?

I’ve not struggled with much but I would definitely say the metalwork is the hardest work, where the most effort needs to be put in.

Have you had any previous experience of these tasks at school?

I did some technical drawing in graphic communications during fourth year and I’ve also done the basic technical class where we made wooden boxes and things like that. That’s similar but here it’s a lot more specific.

How does attending the PEO work with attending school?


Well I sat five highers last year but this year I’m only doing two, which helps. Some of my classmates are sitting three or four subjects but I’m really happy to sit the two as I find that I’m enjoying the two days at the College and my school work is going great.

How does college compare to school?

You seem to get a lot more freedom in the College. If you’re feeling like a break, and everyone agrees, then they’ll let you take one. It feels like you’ve got a lot more responsibility whereas in school you know exactly what you’re doing all of the time. I don’t think there’s much pressure at school but here you’ve got to ensure you’re doing a good job and you’ve got that extra responsibility – which I enjoy.

The lecturers have a different approach to teachers too.

How many are in your class?

There are 11 of us in the PEO class. I’m the only one from St. Matthew’s Academy, the others are from Irvine Royal Academy and Kilwinning Academy.


What are your ambitions?

I want an apprenticeship once I’ve finished this year. I’ve been looking everywhere to find out what my options are – like Hunterston B Power Station, the Merchant Navy, oil rigs or with a local company. I’m just looking into everything. I know that an apprenticeship is what I’m looking to do.

We will catch up with Jacob in February to find out how he is progressing on the course, where we will also film each of our case study pupils for a promotional video.

Getting up to speed with our Motor Vehicle guru!

We are one month closer to the opening of our new campus in Kilmarnock. As we continue our countdown it’s time to turn the spotlight on another curriculum area.

This month we take a look at the Motor Vehicle department and speak to the Curriculum Manager, David Middleton. David gave us an insight into the department, explained the importance of modern apprentices, and looked ahead to what the new campus will offer to his students.

Tell us about the Motor Vehicle department at Ayrshire College.


Our Motor Vehicle courses run at the Kilmarnock and Kilwinning campuses. We mostly run full-time courses for students with part-time courses available for modern apprentices. As well as covering light vehicles, students get the chance to work on heavy vehicles and buses.

Currently, there are 200 full-time students and 90 modern apprentices in our department.

One of our main aims when the students are with us is to change their preconception that after college most of them will go into work in technician roles. We want to get the message out that there a number of roles open to students in the industry, including: vehicle parts, vehicles sales, diagnostic specialists, customer facing roles.

A list of all Motor Vehicle related courses can be found here.

What initiatives are your team involved with?

There is an industry initiative to help students learn about electric vehicles and hybrid vehicle technology. Currently our students get to work on hybrid vehicle simulator boards.

Most of our courses are certified by the Institute of the Motor Industry. These qualifications are recognised internationally and past students have secured employment abroad in places as far as USA and New Zealand. It’s exciting for our students to experience such great opportunities.

Another new initiative for our motor vehicle students is learning how to use e-portfolios. This enables a quicker and more efficient method of communication for their work to be organised and submitted for assessment.

Group shot

In June, Ayrshire College held a competition at its Kilmarnock campus on behalf of the Institute of Road Transport Engineers

How important are modern apprentices to the department?

Modern apprentices are very important to the department. They help the College support independent dealerships across Ayrshire and beyond. It’s good for full-time students to see modern apprentices in class at the same time as them as it inspires them to secure an apprenticeship for themselves.

Over 20 full-time students secured direct modern apprentices in the motor industry in 2014/15.

 What do you think makes the department so successful?

The commitment of staff contributes greatly to the overall success of the department. All of our lecturers have good industry backgrounds and maintain strong links within the industry which helps students with their learning and work placements.

Our staff also work well with colleagues across the College to support students. They work with the student services, funding and inclusive learning departments to offer support to students.

What skills are you looking for in your students?

We look for good employability skills in our students.


The main challenge we face in the motor vehicle industry is to encourage young adults at 16/17 years old to think about what sort of career they want to have, and ensure that once they have made this important decision that they are then able to stick with it for the next four years.

We work tirelessly with students, taking them from not being sure about what they want to do, to undertaking intensive training for four years and making them industry ready at the end of their college journey.

To see students evolve and develop throughout their time at Ayrshire College is very rewarding for lecturers.

What options are open to motor vehicle students once they have finished their courses?

We offer courses at different levels, meaning a progression route is open to students. Full-time students have an opportunity to progress to our modern apprenticeship courses. The apprentices then return to college on a day release basis to complete their qualification.

The majority of our modern apprentices secure employment once they complete their apprenticeship. Our students have many transferable skills which can allow them to branch off into different career routes.

How important is working with local employers to the department?

Local employers are very important as they support our work experience programme. Each year, 60 full-time students take part in a block of work experience.

We also help local employers to recruit by suggesting students who fit their job description to take part in a week-long trial to find out if they are right for the job.

It took a few years to build up and consolidate these partnerships which provide real benefits to students, the College and the employer.

What can students expect from the motor vehicle department at the new campus?

Students can expect modern workshops reflecting industry standards. It offers students a great chance to experience a realistic vision of their future career. It also offers students the challenge of keeping up-to-date with a change of pace in a new, modern environment.

Motor Vehicle Workshop-People

It may be challenging but it is very exciting for our students as we countdown to the new campus.

What does the future hold for the motor vehicle department at Ayrshire College?

We will continue our great work with local employers and as a team use our skills to help propel our students into a future career in motor vehicle. We will keep up-to-date with industry technology and also keep our finger on the pulse of several industry debates which are currently taking place, including the ‘Should mechanics have a licence?’ debate.

Overall, we will continue to offer a first-class service to students, staff and local employers across Ayrshire.

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


New Campus Countdown: Focus on Engineering

Inspiring the engineers of tomorrow

We are continuing our countdown to the official opening of our new campus in Kilmarnock’s Hill Street. After last month’s focus on the Construction Technology and Trades sector we turn our attention to the Engineering and Science curriculum.


Engineering in a nutshell

We spoke to Alastair Heron, Head of Engineering and Science, and Ged Freel, Curriculum Manager for Engineering and Science, at the College to find out how they were feeling about the big move, how several innovative initiatives are shaping the future of engineering and science at Ayrshire College and how the new campus can introduce our students to a more modern world of studying.

The Engineering and Science department sits within the STEM directorate in the College. Courses include Aeronautical, Manufacturing, Fabrication and Welding and Electrical Engineering and are carried out at our three main campuses.

A list of all Engineering related courses can be found at

There are a range of exciting jobs open to students within the Engineering sector including machinists, CNC machinists, fabrication, welding, electrical maintenance and mechanical maintenance.

To get far within the industry, Ged believes that students need to work hard and be committed. He said: “We are looking for positive minded students who are enthusiastic, hardworking, have a good attitude, a good timekeeping and attendance record, and a good skills set.

The main skills set they require to succeed within this industry are excellent hand skills, good communication, team working and effective problem solving.”

Modern Apprenticeships

Alastair expressed the importance of modern apprenticeships to the department and explained how the College supports them.

He said: “Over the last two academic years 120 students have been placed in apprenticeships with our partners. This continues to improve our great relations with local employers and improve the skills gaps between the College and local businesses.”


Engineering Academy

Alastair also told us about the innovative Strathclyde Engineering Academy which the College is a partner in.

“The Engineering Academy is a widening access initiative run by Strathclyde University in partnership. The academy is for school leavers with 4 B’s (which include Maths and Physics) to apply for entry to a range of engineering degree programmes. Entry to engineering at university normally requires 4 A’s and 1 B, or 5 A’s.

Students who enrol in the Engineering Academy will attend the College for the first year to study an HNC qualification before joining second year of a Strathclyde University degree programme. Students are also offered paid summer work placements throughout the duration of their time on the programme.”

You can find out more about the Engineering Academy at

Ayrshire Futures
The department are always looking at new ways in which they can ready students for the future. As part of this they have introduced Ayrshire Futures (Engineering) to help prepare the working relations between secondary school establishments and the College.

Ged explained: “Ayrshire Futures (Engineering) is a way for colleges and schools to work closer together throughout the school year to give school pupils the knowledge required and taster sessions to allow them to make more informed decisions about coming to college as part of their school year.

As well as school pupils attending taster sessions at the college, staff from the college also attend school assembly’s to update them with the latest information about the scheme.

This initiative is based in North Ayrshire but is starting to be rolled out to East Ayrshire and is an exciting initiative for students.”


Golden Partnerships
A key objective of the Engineering department is to forge successful partnerships with the local industries of Ayrshire. This not only helps our students during their studies but helps consolidate the College’s position as a key contributor to the local community.

Ged said: “The engineering and science department are constantly forging new relationships with employers and training organisations. We are currently building a successful relationship with RAF mostly at our Ayr Campus because of the equipment we have there. We would encourage any employer no matter their size or how many staff they employ to contact us if they want to get involved and feel like they can help our students broaden their experience and use the transferable skills they have learnt here at college.”

If you wish to contact Ged Freel or Alastair Heron please email or

New Kilmarnock Campus
Both Ged and Alastair are excited about the new opportunities which will be open to students in 10 months’ time. Ged said: “The new campus will inspire our students with brand new equipment like fitting, welding and electrical installation workshops and allow them a chance to study in a modern engineering environment.”

Alastair added: “Students will also have access to good travel links to get to and from college. They will also be able to use brand new facilities such as a new restaurant, salon, gym and fitness centre.”

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

‘The Engineering of Today’
Keeping the spotlight firmly focused on our Engineering department at the College as we countdown to the new Kilmarnock Campus, we also spoke to a leading employer in the engineering sector to gather their thoughts on what the new build will bring to the industry and the local community.

Stephen Holland is the Business Development Manager at Smillie & Cuthbertson Gas Engineering Limited who are based in Kilmarnock.

Smillie & Cuthbertson Gas Engineering Limited rebranded as S+C Engineering in 2012 to celebrate their 65th year in business. They provide a wide range of services to every industry including Energy, Local Authority, Environmental and Agriculture.
Stephen took some time out of his busy schedule to answer our quick fire Q&A.

What are the range of jobs within this sector?
There are a broad spectrum of jobs open to people in the engineering industry from Research and Development roles right through to Sales Engineers.

Is it growing?
Yes. There are always new opportunities available with changing trends in developing sectors such as the Environmental field and Renewables.

What are the main skills set needed for jobs within this sector?
I would say the main skills set needed for a job within this sector is flexibility and a desire for continuous learning.

What are you looking for in employees?
I am looking for someone with a genuine desire to learn.

How can the new college facilities benefit your organisation in terms of training and development?

I think the new college facilities can cultivate an attention to detail and a willingness to training and development. They can also help students accept critical feedback to support a continuous improvement mind-set.

Do you employ any Modern Apprenticeships?
We do. We currently employ 3 modern apprentices working with us, with a fourth just completed.

What are the biggest changes within your company in the last few years?
The Biggest changes we have faced in the last few years are the need to continually and quickly adapt to customer needs just to survive. This is a very challenging but exciting industry to be a part of.