Girls with Grit: Jackie Galbraith, Ayrshire College

My life before computers

I never planned to have a career in technology.

At school, I had a wide range of interests and achieved highers in Maths, Chemistry, English, German, Geography, History and Modern Studies. While I went through phases of liking particular subjects, my favourite subject throughout secondary school was English. A career in computing was nowhere on my radar – there weren’t even any computers in schools at the time!

When I was in my final year at school, I bowed to pressure from teachers to apply for university. At the time I was interested in African politics, prompted by the brutal murder of Steve Biko by the apartheid regime in South Africa, so I thought ‘if I’m going to be forced to go to university I’ll study something I’m really interested in and go as far away from home as possible!”

Big mistake!

I went to the University of Sussex to study African and Asian studies but, as I had neither the confidence nor the desire to survive at university and missed home, my stay at Brighton was a short one!

I returned to Scotland and spent the next few years in and out of jobs at a time of economic recession and high youth unemployment. In the mid-1980s, aged 25, I went back to full-time study to do a BSc Computer Information Systems at Glasgow College of Technology.

My husband and I had just had our first child, taken out our first mortgage – just as interest rates began to soar – and we needed to increase our family income. So, my motivations for choosing a computing degree were vocational and financial – it was a growing industry sector and I knew I was likely to get a good job with decent money when I graduated. And I did!

The early signs that I was a techie

Although I didn’t set out to have a career in technology, when I look back to my childhood and early adulthood, the signs were there – but neither I nor my parents and teachers spotted them. Seems like I’ve always had an affinity with technology and gadgets – I just never imagined how that could link to a career! Here is my retrospective detective work on how Jackie ended up in tech.

Late 1960s

When I around seven years old I asked for a ‘modern’ electronic till for Christmas. This was cutting edge technology at the time! I had just started to see them in large shops and was fascinated. You can see from the buttons on the till that this was before decimalisation (basing currency on multiples of 10 and 100). On 14 February 1971 when I was eight years old, there were 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound. The next day the pound was made up of 100 new pence!

1972

I got a tape recorder for my tenth birthday and used it to record family sing-songs, the chart countdown every Sunday on the radio (we couldn’t afford to buy singles), and spending hours asking family and friends “What do you think of polo mints?” (a popular TV advert at the time although I’ve yet to meet anyone who remembers this!) 

1974

When I was eleven, I won a prize for General Excellence in Primary 7. The prize was a book token – worth a mighty 15p! – and the book I bought was ‘The Telephone’, a Ladybird book about telecommunications. Two men were responsible for my interest in telephones – the inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, and my dad who was a telephone fitter. In the 1960s and 1970s, my family moved around Scotland as my dad helped setup telephone exchanges from Lanark to Inverness. Communication is a thread that weaves through my career.

Early 1970s

As a young teenager in my third year at secondary school, I asked for a Chemistry Set and microscope for Christmas. I had chosen Chemistry as one of my O-Grades (older readers will remember these, in later years they were superseded by Standard Grades, Intermediates and now Nationals). I became interested in Physics and did a crash O-Grade in fifth year at school. I started the Higher in sixth year – the only girl in a class full of boys. That didn’t bother me, but my teacher was openly hostile to having a girl in his class. I decided that I wasn’t going to subject myself to his taunts and I left the course. Decades later, I’m still annoyed at myself for letting him win!

1984 

In the early 1980s, I campaigned against rising rates of youth unemployment.  I had a talent for designing leaflets but it was becoming a chore to type these on a manual typewriter when it was very difficult to judge the space required for text. I bought a Canon Typestar 5 electronic typewriter which revolutionised how I drafted documents. I could now type a line of text, review it on the 15-digit display (yes, you read that correctly) and make any changes before hitting return to print it onto the sheet of paper! I used this brilliant wee machine to type up essays throughout my degree study. It wasn’t until I worked in industry that I had access to the new personal computers (PCs) which had just arrived on the scene.

Mid-1980s

A couple of years before I started my computing degree I bought my first computer – a Commodore Plus/4! Fairly radical at the time, I was able to programme in Basic. It even had some rudimentary application software built in, for example a word processor and spreadsheet.

Whirlwind tour of my career 

I started my career in manufacturing at Motorola Semiconductors where I did some programming, supported the computer network and trained staff on packages like Harvard Graphics (Microsoft Office hadn’t yet appeared on the scene!) I wasn’t the best programmer, but my boss described me as a ‘great de-bugger’ (at least I think that’s what he said) because I could spot a misplaced punctuation mark a mile away! My forensic approach to grammar and punctuation served me well here and in my future career.

Next, I worked at AVEX Electronics where I was responsible for introducing and installing a computer network across three sites. This is where I really discovered the power of digital networks, and the potential they opened up for individuals within and outwith an organisation to share information and collaborate on projects.

Designing and delivering training courses to support employees through a major systems change sparked an interest in learning and I applied for a lecturing post at the University of Paisley. Here, as well as teaching about computer networks, I became interested in learning with networked technology and I was an early pioneer of developing online courses.

I took this interest forward when I became director of learning at the Scottish Council for Educational Technology, and assistant chief executive at Learning and Teaching Scotland, where I lead departments responsible for educational software development and technology training courses for schools, colleges and universities.

In 2000, I organised one of the first large-scale educational conferences to be broadcast live online across the world, and managed a project team responsible for implementing the National Grid for Learning (the precursor to Glow) to enable schools across Scotland to access educational resources on the Internet.

I became interested in the policy underpinning education and lifelong learning in Scotland, and developed this further when I joined the Scottish Government in 2003. In my ten years in government most of the roles I had related to skills and employment not technology, although I was responsible for e-learning policy for a couple of years.

I took up my current role as vice principal at Ayrshire College in 2013 where I have a wide range of responsibilities which include our management information systems and data analytics.

So, although I’m involved at a different level than when I set out 30 years ago, I’ve kind of come full circle in my career!

Skills for success

The skills that I’ve used most throughout my career are communication, problem solving and managing change. I enjoy innovating and am always looking for better ways of doing things.

Challenges as a woman in a man’s world

I only became aware of gender imbalance in computing when I started my degree, as just around 30% of my classmates were women. Looking back, I can see that the way the course was delivered by some lecturers (male and female) was geared more towards men. Some lecturers made it obvious that they didn’t think computing was for women.

When I started in the manufacturing industry I noticed that there weren’t many women doing the same sort of job as me. In my workplace I just got stuck into my job and I was only ever really uncomfortable when I went to industry conferences, where I was often the lone woman in a room full of men.

These were lonely places to be.

Sadly, in the ICT and digital sector, this hasn’t changed that much over the past three decades. Proportionately, there are fewer women working in computing now than when I started, and I know from speaking to young female programmers that women still experience isolation in many workplaces.

The good news is that there is a lot of determination to change this and, hopefully, in 30 years time the young programmer I mentioned won’t be telling us that it is still a lonely place for women!

Tips for success in a digital career

Stay interested, keep learning and embrace change!

If you don’t, it’s unlikely that you will get the most out of your career in the frighteningly fast-moving field like digital technology. Thirty years after I started my learning and career journey in computing, the technology we use today and how we use it is unrecognisable. For example, if you’re under 30, you probably won’t know what these are: 

Build your networks!

A huge advantage today that I couldn’t even have dreamed of when I started out in my career is the global reach that social media has and how accessible it makes access to experts in your field.

Connect with industry experts on LinkedIn – a great way to keep up-to-date with new developments, seek advice and get yourself noticed for that dream job you’re looking for.

Go to meetups like the ones organised by The Data Lab where you can learn new things in an informal setting over a beer and pizza!

Join professional associations like the British Computer Society and the Institute of Engineering and Technology to connect with people in similar roles.

Seek mentors and support your peers

Engage with local mentoring networks like Ayrshire Connects which links female STEM students in Ayrshire College with each other, with students in other colleges and universities, and with employers.

Many of my mentors over the years were men (as I’ve said, there weren’t that many women in IT) and I learned a lot from them. The nice thing is that I know (because they’ve told me) that they learned a lot from me too!

 

Girls with Grit: Claire Hosie, Ashleigh Construction

Can you give me a brief history of your career?
I started with Ashleigh Scotland Limited three years ago in a graduate position. I had just finished a Marketing degree and began working with Ashleigh as a business coordinator. That involves me doing the bid preparation for all our tenders, as well as all our community engagement with local schools, Ayrshire College and businesses.

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Is there equality in the industry you work in?
We try very hard to have gender balance, and we’ve got quite a lot of women in the professional side of our industry. Unfortunately, in the trades we don’t have many. We’re trying to get more women in. Recently, we appointed a female apprentice painter and already have an existing female painter in the third year of her apprenticeship. We’ve got two female project managers but we’re still trying to get more women into trades.

What’s the key to success?
I think it’s focus, willingness to learn, learning from your mistakes and always trying to improve. Learn and develop key skills, and remember to always ask if you’re struggling and need help.

If there are women starting out in the industry and facing challenges, what advice would you give them?

When I started out I didn’t know much about construction, so I was always asking questions, looking to learn more. I also had a business mentor outwith the construction industry who was very helpful. It is good to have someone outwith your work to talk to. They gave me great advice and helped me focus on my career path. So, if there’s anyone doing what you do, but in a different industry, it might be good to sit down and talk to them.

What opportunities are there with Ashleigh Scotland?
On the professional side, there’s always updates on our website, Twitter and LinkedIn on the various roles we have. We also take on apprentices every year. Our intake for this year has just closed so we will be recruiting again in May 2018.

How would people find out about these and apply for the roles?
Any career opportunities we have are always displayed on our website, Twitter and LinkedIn.

All information on how to apply is on our website and where there are email addresses for anyone looking to apply for either professional or apprenticeship roles. There is a person in each department who responds to these emails and we always keep names on file for any opportunities that become available.

Connecting Girls and Women in STEM

Last year, Ayrshire College launched Ayrshire Connects – a mentoring network for female STEM students across our campuses and courses to connect with each other, with students in other colleges and universities, and with women in the industry sectors they aspire to enter.

ayrshire connectsWhen girls and women start on science, technology, engineering and construction courses at Ayrshire College, we want to make sure they get the best possible experience that enables them to move into  a career in the sector of their choice.  

We want our students to have the chance to build networks with students in other colleges and universities. Read how Ayrshire Connects is helping students make these connections in this article about a visit to Glasgow University

At the Ayrshire Connects launch event last year, 150 girls and women had the privilege of hearing leading NASA figure, Sarah Murray, talk about her career. We are delighted that participants at our second annual Ayrshire Connects conference – Girls with Grit – will once again have the chance to hear from Sarah, this time on strategies for succeeding in your studies and career. If you’d like to attend, the details are in the graphic below. 

 
If you can’t make this event, watch Sarah’s talk from last year – it’s a long film but we promise that you will be glad you watched it!

Meet Ayrshire College students building careers in STEM

Find out what our female students say by clicking on the InSTEMagrams below.

Want to get involved in Ayrshire Connects?

As well as the national event and visits to other colleges and universities, Ayrshire Connects will introduce you to industry mentors, organise visits to employers and much more – your ideas and requests are what matters. 

Details on how to get in touch are available at http://www1.ayrshire.ac.uk/students/ayrshire-connects/.

Preparing for an interview for an engineering or construction course

Once you apply for an engineering or construction course at Ayrshire College, you will receive an invitation to attend an interview. To help you prepare for this we have talked to our interview team and asked them for some top tips on how you can prepare for this interview. Doing some preparation beforehand will help you increase your confidence. The purpose of the interview is for the interviewer to learn about you, and for you to find out about the College.

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Enthusiasm

It is important to show enthusiasm at your interview.  You need to be able to demonstrate a genuine interest in the course. You can do this by explaining to the interviewer why you have chosen to apply for this course – what appealed to you most? It is also a good opportunity to show what your attitude to work is like? What drives you? What are your values? The point of an interview is not to find out how much you know about your chosen course, but more to see how suited and committed to the course you will be.

Do your homework

Research as much as you can about the course and if you have any questions about it, then ask. Initiative always looks good. The interviewer will also want to know about your interests and hobbies, what you are doing currently e.g. school subjects, current employment, past employment or work experience. Be prepared to talk about all of these topics – think about what you are going to say.

Know your plan

It is helpful if you have a career plan and know what kind of job you want to do. It means we can give you advice about the best route to help you get you that job. A back-up plan is also a good idea just in case you find the course is not for you. We will explore these ideas with you at your interview so think about it before you come along.

Prepare some questions

For example, being a successful engineer is all about having a good combination of technical knowledge and practical experience – so you could ask the interviewer about your course experience – how will you be learning? How much practical work is involved in the course?

Building Services Course Information Website Page

Aptitude test

In addition to your interview, you will be asked to do a written aptitude test. We are looking for good maths skills on all our engineering courses. This test will let us see how competent you are in this area.

Be Yourself

It’s also important to remember that we want to find out who you really are.  This means you shouldn’t try to pretend to be something you’re not – so be honest about why you want to study for this course and where you see yourself going in your career. If you’re not sure yet – say so – lots of people are unsure at this stage. We can help you choose a course with a broad base that gives you lots of options at the end of the course.

Everyone is nervous when they go for an interview. If you do suffer from excessive nerves, try to remember that interviewers aren’t trying to catch you out: they want the interview to go well too.

Ewan Granger, Curriculum Manager says “We don’t want you to fail; we want you to be the best you can be. I’m also here to advise you on the best course to get you started on the career you want. It’s important you come along well prepared and have thought about what you want to do in the future. I am delighted you are interested in an engineering/construction career and I will ensure you have all the information you need to make an informed choice and get onto the right course for you.”

Additional Support

Contact us beforehand if you require any additional support at your interview.

Ayr Campus: 01292 293553

Kilmarnock Campus: 01563 523501

Kilwinning Campus: 01294 555325

Email: inclusivelearning@ayrshire.ac.uk

On the day of your interview

Be smart, clean and tidy as this shows you are making an effort and keen to be accepted onto the course. It is important to make a good first impression.

Make sure you know which campus to go for your interview and how long it will take to get there. If you are driving – parking is very limited so allow time to find a space or an alternative car park. If you are going to be late please call to let us know: 0300 303 0303

Arrive on time or at least 10mins early so that you can be prepared for any delays.

Please report to the main reception and our front of house staff will direct you to the interview room.

Good luck!

So you want to be a building services engineer?

In this blog we discover what this job involves and what skills you will need. If you are interested in starting a career in this area then we can help you get started.

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What does a building services engineer do?

A building services engineer could work for various types of organisations including a building, plumbing or electrical contractor, a local council, hospital or factory. They are responsible for designing, installing and maintaining the services inside a building that are needed to allow it to function efficiently. These services include; heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration, plumbing and electrical.

You could be involved with reducing the environmental impact on the building, making sure the building meets the health and safety standards and co-ordinating the work of many tradespeople.

You would work in an office as well as on the construction site and you would work closely with other professionals including structural engineers, builders, architects, surveyors and in-house project teams.

Are there jobs and what kind of person is suited to this career?

Yes! There are lots of job opportunities: The Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) industry in Scotland is very strong. If you choose an engineering career you will have a wide choice of career options at the end of your course.

The sector needs skilled people with a can do attitude. People who are curious about HOW things work. People who embrace technology, enjoy maths and science and like nothing better than solving problems and discovering the latest technologies.

Building Services Course Information Website Page(2)

If I studied for this career – what skills would I learn?

In addition to the knowledge and understanding about the various building services, you are going to need core skills to be successful in this career. These would always be included in any course you were studying:

ICT Skills: You will learn how to do building information modelling (BIM), 3D visualisations and many other ICT packages. As well as understanding how to use the software you will need to analyse and interpret data so you can explain to your clients what the information means.

Communication Skills: Our engineering and construction employers tell us communication is one of the most important skills they look for in applicants. You will have to present ideas, write progress reports and co-ordinate the work of tradespeople. This means you will need good writing and presentation skills and be able to listen and talk to other people from all levels of a business.

Work as part of a team: It’s all about the team! In your College course we will give you lots of practical exercises to help you learn to work as a team, understand how to get the best out of your team, and discover what your role is in a team.  Although you will enjoy planning you are at your happiest when you are doing the practical stuff!

Problem Solving Skills: Employers need people who can help them solve problems and make decisions that will ensure the client gets their building delivered on time. If you are a hands-on person who likes to deal with practical – often tedious – problems that have to be overcome to get a project completed on time, and within budget, then a building services course might be for you! You’ll learn how to keep a cool head under pressure – always coming up with solutions on your feet.

Interpersonal Skills! You are an enthusiastic learner, you are open to new ideas and enjoy negotiating but most of all feel your contribution is helping the team move forward. “People buy people” so if you are friendly, outgoing and good at interacting with people you will get the most out of a building services course.

Time Management/Organisational Skills If you are tasked with co-ordinating all the building services then you have to be well organised and be able to manage a project so that you deliver your services on time.

Ayrshire College is launching new Building Services courses starting in August 2017

NPA Building Services Engineering with Plumbing SCQF Level 5 (Ayr)

NPA Building Services with Plumbing SCQF Level 5 (Kilwinning)

NC Building Services SCQF Level 6 (Ayr)

Interested? Click on the course name above for more information.

If you would like to talk to someone about these courses you can email

Ewan.granger@ayrshire.ac.uk

or call Ewan Granger 01292 265184 Ext. 7475

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.

Data changes everything!


On Tuesday 21 March, 150 people from the private, public and education sectors took part in our Ayrshire Bytes: Data Changes Everything conference at our Kilmarnock Campus. Vice Principal Jackie Galbraith explains why we applied to be part of DataFest17.


We were very proud to have been approved as an official fringe event of DataFest17 – the only one outside the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. DataFest17 was a week-long festival of data innovation from 20-24 March 2017 which showcased Scotland’s leading role in data on the international stage.

Leading figures from a range of industry sectors shared their views on how data and digital are changing everything we do. They included:

  • Gillian Docherty, chief executive of The Data Lab (the Innovation Centre which organises DataFest) who addressed the theme of the conference by taking us on a journey to 2035 and shared examples of how data will have changed our lives. You can watch Gillian’s fascinating talk here:
  • Brendan Faulds, former chief executive of the Digital Health & Care Institute (the Innovation Centre for health and care) who told the story of health and social care services in Scotland, the part data has played in its past and present, and the role it will play in shaping its future
  • Vicky Brock, chief executive of Clear Returns, who demonstrated how to use data to influence shopper behaviour
  • Richard Millar, senior manufacturing systems engineer at Spirit Aerosystems, who talked about the factory of the future
  • Craig Hume, managing director of Kilmarnock based Utopia Computers, who explained why honesty and openness are key to a more secure digital world.

Developing Ayrshire’s Digital Talent

Our ambition for Ayrshire is to enable its people, businesses and communities to have the skills to take advantage of the potential of digital technologies.

Central to that are students on digital and computing courses at the College, thirty of whom will take part in the conference. Their skills will be vital to enabling companies in every sector of the economy to benefit from developments like big data, the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. The Scottish Government reported this month that an additional 12,800 digital skills roles are needed each year in Scotland. As well as in the digital industry, these jobs will be in sectors of the economy like finance, manufacturing, retail, health and tourism.

These jobs will only be filled if increasing numbers of people choose to develop the skills required and we are working hard to inspire more young people at school to choose courses which develop digital skills. Our hugely successful Coderdojo Ayrshire computing coding clubs for seven to seventeen year-olds have introduced hundreds of primary and secondary age young people to programming and developing apps.

On International Girls in ICT Day on 27 April, in partnership with SmartSTEMs, we are taking our #ThisAyrshireGirlCan campaign to a new level with a Technology Workout for 120 first and second year secondary school girls. As well as hearing from inspirational female speakers, the girls will take part in a wide range of interactive workshops led by industry and take part in our award-winning CoderDojo Ayrshire.

Supported by funding from the Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire regional group, Ayrshire College has teamed up with Apps for Good, an open source technology education movement, to equip young people to research, design and make digital products and take them to market. Most children are consumers of technology. Apps for Good aims for young people to become makers using technology. Aimed at pupils in third year at secondary school this project will provide a pathway for young people prior to making their subject choices.

For fourth year pupils looking at their options for fifth and sixth year at secondary school the IT: Software Development Foundation Apprenticeship will be delivered in college two afternoons a week from August 2017. Find out more here.

Ayrshire – byte or be bitten

There is no doubt that data and the digital technologies that enable companies to analyse, visualise and act on it are disrupting the way we work, learn and play.

If you would like to speak to us about your digital skills needs, or you would like to support the work we are doing to encourage young people to pursue digital careers, please contact Moira Birtwistle at moira.birtwistle@ayrshire.ac.uk or Ged Freel at ged.freel@ayrshire.ac.uk

Tackling gender segregation in the Modern Apprenticeship programme

Alyson Laird is a PhD research student at Glasgow Caledonian University. She works within the WiSE Research Centre which seeks to promote and make visible women’s contribution to Scotland’s economy. Her PhD research focuses on gender segregation in the Modern Apprenticeship programme in Scotland.

Alyson visited our Kilwinning Campus recently to have a chat about our approach to tackling gender imbalance in courses and apprenticeships. We invited Alyson to share the aims of her research with us in our blog.


I haven’t always been passionate about gender equality and feminism, but an inspiring lecturer at GCU encouraged me to think differently about the economy and society we live in. Since then, I have had a desire to be part of the change needed to tackle inequalities in our society, specifically gender inequalities.

My research focuses around the Modern Apprenticeship programme, and more specifically the gender segregation which exists within the programme. Gender segregation is where women and men are more likely to be found in jobs stereotypically associated with their gender. For example, less than 2% of those participating in construction and related apprenticeship frameworks are women – that’s only 77 out of over 5,000 participants! My research asks why this is the case and what is being done to change it.

Is it a problem?

This is a question I hear often. Maybe girls just want to work in childcare and hairdressing and boys want to work on building sites and shipyards? These are statements I hear when I discuss my research with people who aren’t aware of the extent of the problem.

Yes, it is a problem.

It’s a problem because the youngest members of our society are taught from a very early age that there are jobs for girls and jobs for boys. Arguably, things are changing – schools, for instance, are making massive changes in this area. You only have to watch kids’ TV for an afternoon or go into a toy shop to notice that gender stereotyping is everywhere. Girls play with dolls and dress up as princesses. Boys play with Lego and pretend to be superheroes. The world around children at the earliest ages can have an impact on the careers they decide to embark on later on.

It’s a problem because we have a gender pay gap, a situation where women in society are being paid less than men in society and much of this is to do with women and men being in jobs stereotypically associated with their gender. The jobs which women are most visible in are those which typically offer lower pay and are often under-valued in our society. Think of the important work that social care workers do? Why are they not being paid a better wage for the job they do, a job that requires a unique set of skills and recognised qualifications?

I don’t think it is just a case of girls wanting to do stereotypical women’s jobs and boys wanting to do stereotypical men’s jobs. I think there are structural and cultural constraints which influence the choices young people make, and hinder accessibility to certain sectors. And I think the Modern Apprenticeship programme has a massive role to play in helping to eliminate existing stereotypes.

What will I do?

There are over 25,000 young people starting apprenticeships every year in Scotland. The most popular apprenticeships are those within Construction & Related frameworks and those within Health & Social Care frameworks. These occupational groups are also the most gender segregated.

My research is looking at both – challenging what is being done to get more women into construction and addressing the low esteem within health & social care frameworks. I am doing this by firstly talking to as many stakeholders as possible. So, I am speaking to places like Ayrshire College who have been proactive in engaging with both sides of the issue through events like ThisAyrshireGirlCan and ThisManCares. The contribution from stakeholders is valuable, it allows me to explore what is going on in the Modern Apprenticeship programme and enhances my understanding of who does what in terms of funding and recruitment for example.

Secondly, I will chat with Modern Apprentices themselves – firstly through a survey and then through interviews. It is important that the voice of apprentices themselves comes through strongly within this research. The story the apprentices tell about their journey to do a Modern Apprenticeship, who influenced them, what challenges they faced, why they chose that particular route, is one of the most important parts of my research. It tells the real story of what’s going on and how things could be improved from people who have lived the experience.

Finally, I will engage with employers, asking them what they are doing to support apprentices and how they can play a role in improving gender equality within the programme.

Why am I doing this?

Because I want to see change.

The changes happening are too slow, the figures over the last ten years have hardly changed. I wonder why with all the efforts to make young people aware of what’s out there and with all the events which take place to encourage non-traditional careers, what has been missed? Hopefully my research will start to try and answer this question and I can help contribute to positive change for women in our society.

If you would like more information about my research please contact me at:

Alyson.Laird@gcu.ac.uk or follow my Twitter feed @AlysonLaird

 

 

8 things the Semta UK Training Partner of the Year Award means for Ayrshire

Coinciding with Scottish Apprenticeship Week, Ayrshire College has received the amazing accolade of being named the 2017 UK Training Partner of the Year at the Semta Skills Awards in London.

Semta is a UK-wide organisation and is the sector skills body for engineering and manufacturing apprenticeship frameworks in Scotland.

Over 500 people representing the best of British engineering attended the awards ceremony. This achievement reflects the work we do with the engineering industry in Ayrshire, particularly the cluster of aerospace companies around Prestwick Airport, and our internal and external partnerships that facilitate this.

What does this award say about Ayrshire College? Here are eight things we believe it tells us.

MA Week Twitter posts

It shows Ayrshire means business. It can be relatively quick and easy to acquire land and build premises, but to build a skills base is a much longer term investment. The recognition from Semta, rating us as being the top training partner in the UK is a sign that we have made this investment and Ayrshire is the prime location for aerospace and manufacturing companies to operate and grow.

Companies already operating in Ayrshire can be confident that the education and training sector matches their ambitions. Meanwhile, businesses thinking of relocating have assurances that a skilled workforce already exists locally, with future generations already in the pipeline.

We are also responding to the need for businesses to be lean and globally competitive by expanding our suite of training in Business Improvement Techniques. Ayrshire can rightly boast both a highly skilled and increasingly productive workforce.

The Modern Apprenticeship (MA) programme is at the heart of our offer to businesses in this sector. MAs allow companies to strategically invest in skills and combat the trend of an ageing manufacturing workforce that is seen across Scotland. The high quality of education and training we provide ensures that cohorts of MAs make a positive difference to the productivity and culture within the business. Indeed, most aerospace companies we work with recognise these advantages and have expanded their apprentice intakes over the last few years.

Opportunities are improved through partnerships with our local businesses and stakeholders. We are constantly engaging with businesses, directly and via partnerships such as Prestwick Aerospace and the Ayrshire Engineering Alliance, to establish their needs now and in the future. Through this continued engagement, we are able to invest our resources correctly, ensuring that we provide the right skills, in the right place at the right time. This engagement ensures that we can add elements to our programmes, such as Part 66 Aircraft Maintenance Licensing tuition and CAA exams, that are of real and immediate benefit to local businesses.

Local people are getting local jobs and, not just that, high value jobs too. Around 90% of our apprentice intake in 2016-17 was from local education, with 60% from an Ayrshire College course. These courses are specifically designed to align to job opportunities. Scottish Government’s Developing the Young Workforce strategy calls for more job recruitment directly from education and that is what we are achieving. As well as apprenticeship programmes, we are helping a wide variety of people find employment. Our employability courses are helping retrain unemployed engineers into jobs as sheet-metal workers for the aircraft maintenance industry and graduates from our full-time courses are also being recruited as trainee mechanics.

We are helping create the workforce of the future by giving school pupils access to inspirational programmes. Mission Discovery gave 200 young people from across Ayrshire the opportunity to be trained and truly inspired by NASA scientists, engineers and astronauts. Sponsored by the Ayrshire College Foundation, the 5-day event will ultimately see a pupil project being carried out on the International Space Station. Young people can now see the exciting jobs that are on their doorsteps. We have started offering the Foundation Apprenticeship in Engineering this year, supporting senior stage school pupils to expand their vocational skills and giving them access to our local industry.

A global business sector needs a world class training environment and that is what we provide. Our Aeronautical Engineering Training Centre opened in 2011 and has gone from strength to strength. Further investment in an upgraded composites materials laboratory has ensured we are providing world class training in advanced manufacturing and repair, to the latest standards. Recent courses in this technology have seen delegates from around Europe attend and raise their skills level. Our new £53 million campus in Kilmarnock is an exceptional learning environment equipped with the latest technology to extensively support engineering and manufacturing companies.

Our work doesn’t stop when people find employment. Far from it. We continue to work with our local companies to ensure their current workforce has the correct skills they need to prosper, whether it be in composite technology, business improvement or management skills to name but a few. Firstly, this helps increase the opportunities for Ayrshire’s workforce to reach their personal career aims. Secondly, it helps business sustainability and, hopefully, aids growth. Thirdly, the combination of these two elements will create the entry level opportunities for the next generation of apprentices and graduates, creating a truly virtuous cycle.

A diverse workforce is key to future success and is something we are committed to for the benefit of our communities and businesses. Current recruitment patterns to aerospace apprenticeships and full-time college courses still show a major gender imbalance with more than 90% being male. This creates a talent pool that is vastly reduced in size which sees females have a lack of opportunity to access high value jobs. Ultimately, a reduced talent pool can have a knock-on effect for business productivity also. We work hard alongside our business partners to challenge gender stereotyping and other equality issues and our This Ayrshire Girl Can campaign won the Herald Diversity award for Best Marketing and Social Issues Campaign.

 

Meet the Apprentice – Louis Kerr, Watermiser

To celebrate Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2017, we are introducing a number of students who are at various stages of their apprenticeships.

On Monday we heard from Craig Stobbs of Ayrshire Precision, and yesterday we introduced you to GE Caledonian Ltd’s Tracey Govan.

Next up is 19-year-old Louis Kerr from Newmilns who is in the first year of his apprenticeship with Watermiser, also based in Newmilns.

Louis Kerr.JPG

Watermiser specialises in water cooling solutions and is the sister company of Dustacco. This is the first year Watermiser has hired apprentices – two in total.

Louis said “I saw Watermiser’s advertisement in the College and was encouraged to apply for it. Obviously it’s very handy for me as it’s local, but they are also friendly people to work for. I’m six or seven months into the apprenticeship now and it’s been very good so far.

“My role at Watermiser is to help make the fibreglass cooling towers. I’ve also carried out welding tasks at Dustacco too, which helps with my college work. But I’m mostly at Watermiser.”

Louis is supervised at Watermiser by Alex Jamieson.

Alex is a big believer in the apprenticeship route and is keen to help Louis succeed in every aspect of the job.

He said “We’re all at the learning stage as this is the first year we’ve ever taken apprentices on. We have three other workers here. It did feel like we had no one coming in behind us to learn the business. So we had discussions and came up with the idea of going down the apprenticeship route.

“The type of work we do isn’t very common around here, it’s very specialised. It does take a bit of learning – not many people know what fibreglassing entails. We’ve not really got machines here, everything is done by hand so it’s labour intensive.

“Louis knows all he needs to do is ask if he’s unsure about anything. We tend to have him observe what we’re doing and then give him tasks to complete. An assessor from the College comes in every three months, and in between that we’ll sit down on a one-to-one basis to see how things are progressing as well.”

Louis added “I can see myself doing this for a long time. The aim when I finish my four year apprenticeship will be to make my way up the ladder at Watermiser as far as I can.”