Girls into ICT Day 2017

Girls into ICT 2017 image

Celebrated around the world on the fourth Thursday in April, International Girls in ICT Day aims to encourage girls and young women to consider studies and careers in ICT.

Women are under-represented in IT occupations and make up just 17% of IT specialists working in the UK. Ayrshire College promotes International Girls in ICT Day every year, highlighting the need to promote career opportunities for girls and women in the world’s fastest growing sector.

Digital skills are increasingly important, according to a new survey conducted across the UK by the British Chambers of Commerce. The findings, found that 83% of companies say digital and IT skills are more important to their business than two years ago, with nearly half saying these skills are significantly more important.

However, the survey also found that more than 80% of businesses are facing a shortage of digital skills in their workforce. With over 12,000 new jobs predicted each year in Scotland, there has never been a better time to start a career in digital technologies.

Why consider a career in ICT?

Scotland is a hot-bed of digital technology and home to some of the most innovative tech companies in the world. Billion dollar businesses like SkyScanner and FanDuel are based in Scotland. Global tech players like Microsoft and Amazon have major tech hubs here too.

Innovative tech businesses are being created across the country. And thousands of businesses in financial services, the creative industries, life sciences and the public sector depend on tech professionals to deliver their services.

We are running an industry-supported #ThisAyrshireGirlCan Technology Workout which will take place at our Kilmarnock Campus on Wednesday 14 June.

In partnership with SmartSTEMS, a charity established to encourage more girls into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the event will introduce female pupils in first and second year at secondary school to the many career options available in STEM. IMG_2237

The pupils will see and experience technology in a whole new light, learning from leading companies about the exciting and diverse opportunities that STEM offers, as well as the many high value jobs which they can aspire to.

At the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan Technology Workout, female pupils will hear from inspirational speakers Jo Watts, Principal of Customer Analytics at Dufrain Consulting and Wendy Pring, Managing Director at KCP Environmental Services.

Most of the day will be about taking part in a wide variety of interactive workshops run by companies, learning to code at our award winning CoderDojo Ayrshire club and exploring interactive exhibits.IMG_2223-0

Ayrshire College encourages girls and young women to take advantage of the increasing opportunities in digital occupations. This event will help inform young people about careers in computing and STEM as they start to make subject choices at school.

Register here before Friday 9 June 2107

Find out more

Take a look at some of our videos and blog posts from women in computing in the past twelve months.

Gillian Docherty – Chief Executive of The Data Lab – watch Gillian’s fascinating talk here.

Caroline Stuart – Scotland Director for Oracle Corporation Ltd and led our recent Ayrshire Bytes conference.

Claire Beattie – Service Desk Analyst at brightsolid, an award winning company which provides data centre and cloud services.

Heather Traher – Senior User Experience Researcher at Google


10 reasons why you should study Graphic Design and Visual Communication

  1. Get paid for being creative. Graphic designers express their creativity every day. As well as picking colour palettes and choosing imagery and type they also have to think ‘outside the box’ to solve challenging briefs. If you’re a creative type, with a good eye for detail, graphic design gives you the opportunity to bring your ideas to life.
  1. Make a real difference. Every design project from a small flyer to a major advertising campaign has the potential to make a difference. For instance a poster campaign could encourage someone to donate blood, the right logo can help a local business attract more customers or you can even just point people in the right direction through effective signage. Whatever you design, the ability to create change is a privilege. Hone your visual communication skills at college and use them to make an impact.
  1. The world is your oyster. Armed with a pencil, mac and the right software, a designer can work anywhere in the world. Nowadays many companies and clients don’t mind where you work as long as you produce the goods. If travelling’s your bag, why not join the growing army of ‘digital nomads’, who use their design skills to fund their travels?
  1. Be your own boss. There are lots of opportunities for designers to work for themselves, from freelancing to setting up your own agency. Some designers even launch their own commercial brands using their marketing and artistic skills to promote their own product ranges.
  1. Exciting job opportunities. Graphic designers are always in demand, particularly those with digital skills. The amount of in-house designer jobs has increased significantly in the past year with brands such as Apple, Google, Specsavers, and NSPCC all investing in their own talent and creative agencies are always on the look out for fresh new designers. A visual communication qualification opens the door to a huge range of careers including Graphic Designer, Art Worker, UI/UX Designer, Information Architect, Mobile Designer, Brand Identity Developer, Packaging Designer, Broadcast Designer, Illustrator, Production Artist, Motion Graphics Designer, Web Designer and Creative Director.
  1. Cash in on digital. With the rise of web and mobile platforms there is now unprecedented demand for digital led designer roles. The average salary for a User Interface Designer with up to 5 years experience in the UK is around £29,117, in comparison to that of a Print Graphic Designer with the same level of experience, at £22,599. Furthermore, over 50% of digital designers in the UK have less than 5 years experience, meaning there are excellent opportunities for graduates to make an impact early in their careers.
    (source: Indeed
  1. Make your mark on the world. As a designer you will be creating unique work you can be proud of and sharing it with the world. Seeing something you designed in context – on a supermarket shelf or billboard – is always exciting and your work could potentially be seen by generations to come.
  1. Work across a range of industries. Every industry needs effective visual communication and therefore good designers. Whether you choose to work with different types of clients or specialise in a particular field that appeals to you, the possibilities are endless.
  1. No two days are the same. Life as a designer is never dull with every day throwing up a new creative challenge. You could be designing a social media post for a restaurant one day and a strategic plan for a healthcare company the next. A constant flow of deadlines keeps you focussed with no time for clock watching.
  1. Designers have fun! Modern design studios are vibrant and exciting places to work. If the idea of working nine to five in a corporate office environment leaves you cold, studio life may be more up your street. Creative studios value individuality with relaxed dress codes, flexible working patterns and quirky workspaces. Working as part of a creative team is inspiring and fun, and for the self-employed designer there is a wide online community of designers sharing work, feedback and advice.

Interested? With a wide range of design and visual communication courses, Ayrshire College is a great place to start your creative career. Apply now for courses starting in August here.

Mature student gives an Account of Ayrshire College life

“I was in my forties, you don’t go back to college in your forties.”

That was Samantha Mathieson’s first thought when a friend suggested that she return to education.

Fast forward four years, and 46-year-old Samantha now holds a Master’s degree in Finance and Accounting.


She returned to Ayrshire College this week to talk to us about enrolling at the College and how that decision has changed her life.

“I was born and bred in Scotland but moved down south years ago. When I came back, I really struggled to find a suitable job. I’d worked in management almost my entire life, but found that employers were now looking for qualifications to go with that experience.

“I’d never had a prolonged period of unemployment before and wasn’t sure what to do. Someone suggested going to college but I didn’t know anyone who had gone back to college, to me it was just for young people who were leaving school.

“I went along to the Kilmarnock Campus and spoke to Student Services. I was honest in saying “look, I don’t know what I’m doing here.” They had a chat with me – asking me about myself, my experiences and where I wanted to be in the future.

“Gerry D’Agostino, a lecturer from Accounting, then spoke to me. Immediately I said “I’m absolutely hopeless at maths.” He told me not to worry. Then I said “I don’t do computers.” Again, he told me not to worry.

“He convinced me – a couple of weeks later I was signed up for HNC Accounting.”

The course began and Samantha admits she struggled early on. She was returning to education after 25 years away, after all.

However, she found that as an older student, she could apply herself better than most of her classmates. She wasn’t going out every night living the student lifestyle. In comparison younger students seemed to retain information better than Samantha.

She said “We quickly got together to learn from each other. I would teach them planning and how to set up study plans. They would show me techniques for remembering things.

“Coming to college is a big step when you’re older, it’s scary. You have bills to pay and families to look after. I know a few people who have gone straight back into university and they’ve found it too tough. University’s a whole different way of learning. It’s more ‘here’s your stuff, off you go’. College is great, the lecturers will get you into it slowly and will guide you through the coursework.

“Guidance is a massive thing at college. When I first came here it wasn’t all about learning my course. It was also about the life skills I picked up with it. I thought, being an older student, I couldn’t learn anything else. But I did. I’ve changed so much in the last four years.

“So much so that I’m actually volunteering for the Red Cross. Four years ago I’d never have considered that.”

Samantha acts as a mentor to the current Accounting students at Ayrshire College, visiting once a week to give advice and answer any questions they might have, as someone who’s been there and done it as a student.

After college she went on to the University of the West of Scotland in Ayr and got her BAcc degree, before gaining her Master’s degree in Paisley.

“The current students are all really interested,” She said.

“They ask things like ‘How do you find the time?’ and the honest answer is you don’t at the beginning. It takes dedication and application.

“Two months before I was due to sit my exams at university, I broke an ankle and thought that would be the end of it. But I said ‘no, you’ve come this far’. I broke my ankle in March and passed my exams in May. I was over the moon that I could do it with a broken ankle!”

Samantha’s final piece of advice for anyone thinking of becoming a mature student is “I’d encourage them to speak to someone at the College. It might not be for them but at least they’ll get a greater idea having spoken to someone who knows best. Come and speak to the guys here, they’re absolutely brilliant at giving you advice.

“It’s amazing coming back to college.”

First experience of working in a design team

Some of our graphic design students had a very productive Easter holiday.

Kyle Lotter and Rebecca Kirkwood volunteered for a week’s work experience with the College marketing team. We caught up with them at the end of the week to hear about their first experience of working in a design team.

KYLE LOTTERIMG_8262HND Visual Communications student

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in South Africa and moved to Scotland when I was nine. I live in Galston and went to Loudoun Academy. My favourite subjects at school were art and graphic communications. Although I achieved good exam results, I did not feel ready to go to university. I had thought about studying architecture, but decided to go to college first and learn new creative skills. I started at NC level and I have worked my way up to HND level.

How are you enjoying studying HND Visual Communications?

I have enjoyed my course and I am learning new skills all the time. A highlight of the course for me has been working on live briefs. One brief was a competition to design a poster for alcohol awareness – I won this competition and I was very proud of my achievement. The other brief was to design a Christmas story book for an event at Culzean Castle and one of my illustrations was selected.

Why did you volunteer for this work placement and what have you been working on?

We have had a few offers of work placement but this one appealed to me because it was working with the College design team. I have had a busy week with a variety of different projects to work on including: a funding leaflet, web banner and flier to promote the student digital insights survey, an infographic, resizing images for the website and I designed two pages of the Student Voice magazine.

What have you learned from the experience?

I have definitely got more confident in my ability. I had a big workload and I just went for it. The graphic designers have been great and given me lots of constructive feedback. I have found in this team there is always someone that will help you. I have learned the importance the College places on social media as a way of communicating. I attended two team meetings and have been surprised by the volume and breadth of the work the design team are tasked with. I did not expect this from an in-house design team. I have been amazed by how fast my week has gone. There are less distractions in the workplace – everyone is very focused and just gets on with the work.

What are the next steps for you? 

I am designing a survival kit for a monster from space – it’s a fun project that allows us to be really creative. We will then be preparing for the end of year show and we’re all looking forward to getting to that point! I will be looking for more work experience opportunities in the summer – perhaps working in a local design agency and comparing it to this placement. These experiences will help my CV and help me stand out from other students. After the summer I will be going to either Glasgow Caledonian University or the University of the West of Scotland.

REBECCA KIRKWOODRebecca.JPGHND Visual Communications student

Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Maybole and before coming to college I went to Carrick Academy. I studied graphic communications, art and music and so I considered various creative courses before I finally settled on Visual Communications. It is a mixture of graphic design and art and I like how the course has a qualification at the end of each year. If I had changed my mind and wanted to do another course it would not have been a waste of a year.

How are you enjoying studying HND Visual Communications?

I am really enjoying the course especially illustration, printmaking and web design as I had not done these before. The highlights of the course have been a trip to Kelvingrove Art Gallery to see the Mucha exhibition and working on live briefs. I enjoyed the Culzean Castle Christmas story book brief and also we were asked to design a logo for ‘Hit the Bard.’

What have you been working on during your work placement?

I have been designing three pages of the Student Voice magazine. I have been sourcing images for some of the courses at the College and doing some logo research to create a mood board for a new brand.

What have you learned from the experience?

I have learned that you need to work quickly. There is no time to sketch out ideas in your sketchbook – you’ve got to go straight on to the computer and work up your ideas. I think that’s the main difference between the classroom and the workplace – I have been used to working on a design for a few weeks and here, it is expected the work will be ready in a few days. I have also learned more about using Adobe InDesign. These are skills you learn by practising and getting hints and tips from other users. I also watch free short courses on the Adobe website and online tutorials from YouTube. I have learned a lot this week because I have been using InDesign all the time.

What are the next steps for you? 

I will be working really hard to complete my course. I need to get a ‘B’ grade as I have a conditional acceptance for the University of Edinburgh’s BA Graphic Design course, which is a direct entry to the second year. I am really looking forward to moving to Edinburgh, it will be a really exciting time in my life. There is a massive art and design building with old printing presses and camera equipment – this really appealed to me and I just liked the whole atmosphere when I went on a tour of the campus. In the summer I will also be working on developing my design portfolio which I am creating on Wix. I will also be looking for more work experience as I have enjoyed my time with Ayrshire College.

Are you interested in becoming a graphic designer? Take a look at our HNC Visual Communications course here.

Taking the next steps to a career in tourism

As part of their course, the HND Tourism students were challenged to organise a tourism conference. In this blog we hear from some of the students about their event management experience.


The recent #nextstepsconference was led by HND Tourism students and delivered through informative workshops for secondary school pupils and tourism students alike on what their ‘next steps’ on the career ladder in the tourism industry could be.

Over 80 delegates attended on the day with representation from a number of schools – Belmont Academy, Greenwood Academy, The Grange, Prestwick Academy and St Joseph’s Academy.

Marc Crothall, CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, provided the key note speech about the wider range of employment opportunities in the tourism sector.

Speakers also included Craig Lawless from ACE Adventures, Claire Munroe from the Scottish Maritime Museum and Claire Donaldson from SRUC presented on the various niche sectors that offer employment in rural tourism.


The HND Tourism students who organised and led the event showed great enthusiasm and passion for the tourism industry in Ayrshire, Scotland and beyond!

We asked them to share their thoughts on the day.

Devlin McCloskey – My role as manager of the #nextstepsconference was overseeing all operations in both planning and management of the event. My job on the day of the event was to make sure delegates were being registered by reception staff and being shown the industry stands. I also helped with the set-up of the venue – checking everything was located where it should be.

I was so proud of how the conference went.  The most rewarding aspect of organising the event was hearing delegates, guest speakers, industry partners and our lecturer Richard Canale give positive feedback about the success of the conference. It gave us all a sense of great pride in our achievements.

Have a look at Facebook Live videos from the event here.

Daina McVey – I was keen to showcase what travel and tourism courses are on offer at Ayrshire College and I’ve gained more skills from organising the conference.  I felt it was a great opportunity to promote Scotland’s fantastic tourist industry to the next generation.

Jodie Timmins – I’d really been looking forward to the event and seeing all of our hard work come together.  It was a great opportunity to show what travel and tourism entails as I feel most people think it’s only based around travel agents and cabin crew.  It’s so much more!

Logan Erskine – this was a superb learning experience and a great way to promote tourism to the local school leavers.  Being involved with this event will definitely be an asset for my CV.

Patrycja Wirkus – the conference has been a great opportunity to see what it is like running this kind of event and being part of an events team.  It’s hectic, but a great way to encourage people to think about a career in the tourism industry.

You can find out more about travel and tourism courses at Ayrshire College here.

Events roles are found in many different types of sectors such as hospitality and tourism, education, sport, and entertainment.  Apply now for HNC Events

Meet an Ayrshire Miner

Last year, during the new Kilmarnock Campus Community Open Day on Saturday 19 November 2016, we met a lovely couple who told us all about their working lives in Ayrshire. Mr Findlay agreed to come and visit us again to tell us about life as an Ayrshire Miner.


Jim Findlay

When we were moving into our new campus in Kilmarnock we rediscovered a few treasures. A box of old prospectuses ranging from 1925 onwards found by the Learning Resource Centre (LRC) Team. These prospectuses were created by the Ayrshire Education Authority and the Ayr County Council (Education Committee).

So how much has college really changed since then?

Flicking through the old prospectuses a few courses that we offer here at Ayrshire College could certainly be found: engineering, plumbing, art, joinery, baking, and painting and decorating to name a few.

However, there are quite a few courses that we definitely don’t offer: mining, salesmanship, pattern-making, and perhaps the most significantly different – domestic science – a course just for women to learn millinery, dressmaking, sewing, household maths and laundry skills.

As luck would have it we met a gentleman during the new Kilmarnock Campus Community Open Day who had actually studied mining surveying at Ayr Technical College (now our Ayr Campus) in 1955. Jim and Joan Findlay agreed to visit us again, and Jim told us about college life and working in the mining industry in Ayrshire.

Why did you decide to go to college?

It was part of the terms of my apprenticeship with the National Coal Board that I went to college once a week. I had no working hours in my contract, I worked when I was asked by the Board. I started my Mining Surveying course at Ayr Technical College and finished it at the Royal College of Science and Technology – now Strathclyde University.

What do you remember about the course?

There was 4 main subjects in the course: mathematics, mining surveying, mining technology and geology. I still have one of the textbooks I used.

What age were you when you started the course?

I think about 18 years old. That’s what age you had to be to work underground in the mines.

Was it all men that studied mining?

Women were not allowed underground, so no women could take the course. It was against the law for women and children to work underground.

What did a mining surveyor do?

I used a theodolite or mining dial to make sure the roads (tunnels) were going in the direction indicated on the development plan. We surveyed the workings every three months and updated the colliery plans.

Was there a yellow canary underground or is this a myth?

Yes, there really was a yellow canary underground. The bird would normally be kept in a cage in one of the surface buildings and taken underground if and when required. If the canary passed out it would mean that the levels of toxic gas was getting higher. It would be revived though.

What jobs have you had since your apprenticeship with the National Coal Board?

I was employed by the National Coal Board from 1955 to 1967 based at Lugar, near Cumnock. Around then the coal industry was declining so I decided to move job. From 1967 to 1974 I worked with the Scottish Special Housing Association, I also went back to college and studied Civil Engineering 3 nights a week. From 1974 to 1996 I worked with Ayrshire and Bute Water Board and Strathclyde Water Services.

What made you come to our new Kilmarnock Campus Community Open Day?

Joan and I went to the old campus for the local history group lectures. The group now uses the new campus so we saw that it was advertised and decided to go.

What do you think of the new campus?

It’s very impressive, the sheer space and brightness throughout the building. The number of computers is amazing as well, this was unheard of when I went to college. The seats designed by Cumnock Academy are also great. The difference from when I was at college is huge; we didn’t have a café, outdoor sports facilities and even the number of courses we could take was limited.

If you were to go to college now what would you study?

Civil Engineering I think. I enjoyed being an engineer.

We really enjoyed having Jim and Joan visit us at Ayrshire College and tell us all about college in the 1950s. We look forward to welcoming them and the History Group that meets in the Open Space every Tuesday evening.

Moving further into the 21st century the only mining Ayrshire will be seeing is data mining.