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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.


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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 www.nationalcodingweek.com

#NationalCodingWeek

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.

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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!

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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

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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.