Ode to Ayrshire

Russell Abercrombie is one of our Hospitality and Tourism students and is currently part of the Diageo Learning for Life Hospitality and Bartending programme.

There are various workshops and industry visits as part of the programme and one of the sessions involves participants completing Ayrshire Smiles.

Ayrshire Smiles was set up by the Ayrshire & Arran Tourist Board, and this inspired Russell to write the following Ode to Ayrshire.


Ayrshire

It’s often said that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. Whether that be a partner whom you’ve shared a home or life with for a sustained period; a job that you lost the love for a decade previous; or even a football manager that’s stayed at your club just a season too long.

The same can be said for our appreciation of Scotland and, more specifically, Ayrshire.

Many of us have spent the greater part of our existence surrounded by, and as a result growing accustomed to, the beautiful scenery and landscapes of this county and the nation it sits within.

Dunure Castle

I understand. The daily grind allows little time to sit and admire the scenic milieu we’ve been gifted, but if we lifted our heads from our smartphones during those arduous commutes and endless traffic jams we’d be rewarded with quite frankly stunning views almost everywhere we looked. This is true no matter where in Scotland we call home, but is especially accurate in Ayrshire.

Let’s for a moment slightly twist a phrase from Ayrshire’s favourite son, Rabbie Burns – “O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!” and put ourselves in the shoes of a visitor to Ayrshire as they set their eyes on Culzean Castle for the first time. Or the views on either side of the boat as the Ardrossan to Brodick ferry cuts its way through the Firth of Clyde like a hot knife through butter – the rugged, snow-capped beauty of Goatfell ahead with the stunning Ayrshire coastline slowly disappearing behind.

In a recent interview, explorer Ed Stafford spoke of meeting people in London and other large cities who’d never seen a cow in real life before. Lives so wrapped up in concrete and office blocks, in £8 double-shot flat whites and smashed avocado bagels to see the beauty that exists a mere train trip away. And that’s the allurement of Ayrshire. No matter where we lay our heads at night or spend most of our working days, we’re never more than 5 minutes from a piece of open countryside and with it the odd cow or two.

Burns Monument, Alloway

Over four million people visit Ayrshire annually and with them bring in-excess of £355 million to the local economy. When nearly 90% of these people are here to sightsee, it’s not difficult to decipher that we, the year-long residents, might be missing out on something beautiful in favour of crushing candy on our tablet computers or reading the latest copy of the Metro.

So whether it’s the world class golf courses; the stunning coastal trails; the history-laden towns of Alloway or Largs; the castles that have stood for centuries or even the modern luxury of the many 5 star hotels on offer – Ayrshire has a lot that we as residents should not only be appreciative of, but be proud to talk up and recommend to visitors and locals alike.

So don’t let familiarity breed contempt and let Ayrshire back into your heart. Your guests, county and even your wallet will thank you.

I had a great week doing work experience at Ayrshire College

My marketing work experience by Johnathan Heron

Johnathan Heron is a fourth year pupil at Barrhead High School and has just completed a week of work experience with the Marketing team. One of his tasks for the week was to write a blog about his experience. Here’s how he got on.

Event Management

On my first day I shadowed Shelagh McLachlan the Marketing and PR Manager, and Louise Boyle a Marketing and PR Officer, who were managing the opening of three new facilities at Ayrshire College. Everyone had a very positive attitude and worked well with each other, it was great to meet everyone and you could tell how much work went into organising the event. The College has three new facilities; Health and Social Care and Early Years Suite, Music and Sound Production Studio and a new kitchen for Supported Learning students. After the opening speeches, we took a tour of the new facilities and saw the students working in the simulated hospital ward and nursery.

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This was inside the new simulated hospital ward. The students showed us how to do a bed bath.

We then had the opening of the new sound studio – the studio was fantastic and it was great to see students pursuing careers through their passion for music. I enjoyed the performances.

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I’m in this photo – far right – holding the end of the ribbon. A very important job!

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This is Calum and Nick who played a song that they had just written that very morning. Wow!

Then it was off to the opening of the kitchen for the supported learning students. It was great to see students having the opportunity to study at college and pursue a career with the support that they need.

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This is the new kitchen, the students made shortbread for all the visitors.

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These students working with Lynn our graphic designer to create this poster. It shows what they enjoy most about coming to college.

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At every event there was delicious food to eat. The scones were amazing. The professional cookery students made them for us.

Social Media

On my second day, I shadowed Michelle MacKenzie to a meeting with students studying hairdressing. The meeting was about advertising an event and showcasing their work. After the meeting Michelle gave me a job where I had to come up with social media posts to promote different courses starting in January. I enjoyed this, I liked doing creative work.

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This is me with some of the Marketing team

In the afternoon I went with Katie Ralston to hear a guest talk about play therapy in early years. The talk was interesting and afterwards Shelagh asked me to write a bit about my opinion on how to encourage more men to take up a career in early years. This was interesting, as a career in early years had never even crossed my mind and I am sure the same is true for most- if not all boys in my year. I never had a male role model in my nursery or primary school, so perhaps this is why I had not thought about it.

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Design

On my third day I was shadowing Lynn Robertson a graphic designer. Lynn showed me the fundamentals of design which included colour, typography, layout and composition, images and brand and identity. It was a very interesting subject to learn about. I then shadowed Lynn and Shelagh to a meeting about promoting the College. Then I went to a communications meeting where they discussed the website, social media messages, press stories and blogs.  After the meetings Lynn took me on a tour of the College, it was great to get to see the whole campus and I was very impressed with the colour and layout of the building. It’s a beautiful place to study.

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This is the Kilmarnock Campus where I was doing my work placement

Campaigns

On my fourth day I went to a meeting about a campaign the Marketing team had helped to plan, called Positive About Disability. There were other representatives from different organisations also there. The meeting discussed a project some colleges had been working on about getting staff who have a disability or long term illness to disclose this, so the College can offer them support if required. We also talked about how we could encourage people living with disabilities to consider applying to College for jobs and raise their aspirations for their careers. They discussed how to get more disabled people into higher paying careers and make working environments more disability friendly. It was a good meeting to attend as I met a lot of new people and got to see them all working to make a difference in the lives of people who are living with disabilities.

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Public Relations

On my fifth day I learned about PR from Martin Currie. He gave me a rundown of what he does and then gave me a job to write a story about some care experienced events being held at all Ayrshire campuses for National Care Leavers Week.

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Conclusion

All in all I had a great week doing work experience at Ayrshire College. Everyone was very nice and worked well together, I got to meet a lot of people and learn about different jobs and careers in marketing. I enjoyed working with everyone and being a part of a working environment. I will remember my work experience going forward and wish everyone all the best.

‘Society Matters’ at Ayrshire College – Second Edition

This is the second edition of Society Matters, our student led online journal, which examines topical issues in Social Science. We hope you find the articles emotive as well as being informative as they resonate with many of us who have friends and family who have served in the Armed Forces.  Almost every town or city has a memorial dedicated to the Unknown Soldier – the Social Sciences staff and students at Ayrshire College wear our poppies with pride and dedicate this edition to all who have served.

Lest we forget.

Society Matters Edition 2 Cover

Thanks for giving me this opportunity

Scott & Angela Blog Photos-2

Dear Ayrshire College Foundation Trustees,

My name is Scott Clark and I have just finished my creative summer internship with Ayrshire College. I would like to thank you for supporting this career opportunity, I have really enjoyed this job and I thought you might be interested to know how I got on.

I started college in 2013, by attending the Prince’s Trust course. I then attended the evening class in photography in 2014. In 2015 I started in Kilwinning with an NC Photography and finished in 2018 with my HND Photography. Although I had loved my course, there was something missing – work experience. Then I saw the advert for the summer internship, and I was excited that there was this opportunity just for creative students.

My course gave me opportunities for volunteering, competition work and networking, and to do an internship on top of this, I knew it would look great on my CV. I felt very lucky to be chosen for the job.

I was working with the Marketing team, and they were very welcoming. I could not believe how quickly I was accepted into the team and soon felt part of the team. They were all very supportive to me and helped by answering questions, giving me advice on my work, and providing reassurance.

I was given an interesting list of tasks to complete over the summer including:

  • Making a film of the Prince’s Trust Programme
  • Promotional video for the You. Salon
  • Setting up a studio and taking photos of the Board of Management, SMT, Student Association President and Student of the Year prize winners.
  • Short videos of hospitality staff from Trump Turnberry
  • Film about Foundation Apprenticeship in Civil Engineering
  • Film of Project Search at Culzean
  • Film about Student Services
  • Film about what colleges do.

This was a great opportunity to show what I can do. There were high expectations and I knew I needed to work very hard to show that I could do it.

Here is what I learned about working in the marketing environment:

You need to be really flexible. I would come in with my plan for the day and then my day would end up being nothing like my plan and I would have to reprioritise. It was so different from being a student where my weeks were very structured.

The pace of work was very fast and I was juggling several jobs at the one time. I did not realise it would be so busy. I was keen to show I was able to keep up with the workload.

Doing photography five days a week non-stop with constant interruptions, and requests for live work, was much harder than expected. But, I was determined to show I could do it.

I think the work experience has raised my aspirations and given me the belief in myself to think about working in this environment and not just think about studio work. I didn’t think I’d like working in an office – but I was surprised how far and wide I travelled in this job from Edinburgh to Turnberry, Culzean, Underwood Estate – it was a surprise to me.

The thing I was most surprised about was, how much work I got through in two months. I made 20 videos as well as several photo shoots.

The film I was most proud of was – completing the launch video for the Ayrshire College Digital Strategy. I had not done anything like this before and working with a graphic designer, I learned so much about branding and paying attention to detail. This video was sent to 1000 staff and is on YouTube. I got to present it to the principal and she was pleased with the final result.  I had never done any animation in video before and I was able to complete it in 2 days.

When I was reflecting on my experience at College, I was asked who had inspired me the most. That would be Gary McIntyre – my lecturer.  At one point during my course he noticed I wasn’t myself – I had lost my mojo. He said – “You’re thinking about leaving, aren’t you?” and I was! I was worried about my graded unit – writing is not my strong subject, and I could not see how I could pass. He told me to keep going and that I could do it. He found out I could do it verbally, and he put things in place to give me more support and helped me with strategies to plan and organise myself better.

So, if it wasn’t for Gary and the rest of my lecturers, I would not have completed my course – and now I’m looking forward to graduating in November. If it wasn’t for the internship, I would not have had the opportunity to get some great work experience. My qualifications and experience have given me the confidence to take the next step in my career. I am also delighted to hear that after lobbying my lecturers to have work experience on the HND Photography course – this is actually happening this year.

Thanks again for giving me this opportunity.

Yours sincerely

Scott Clark

Microtech’s Road to Business Success

I want to earn money

Chris McMail was more interested in working hard than doing well in school. From a young age he had a great work ethic, learning from his first jobs. Working as a market trader, he learned how to sell, how to build relationships, no matter what the weather, or what he was asked to do, he worked hard.

Chris actually left school with 7 ‘O’ Levels and 4 Highers and then he came to our college to study Computer Data Processes. Full of confidence, drive and ambition, he left college and set up his own business with a £3000 grant, selling computers. Microtech was born. Fast forward 30 years later, and Microtech has a turnover of £6m employing over 60 staff. Here’s how he did it.

Low-Risk Business

I was 21, living at home with my mum and dad, with minimum living costs to consider and therefore starting my own business was a low-risk opportunity. Whilst my parents couldn’t give me much practical help, they provided lots of moral support. My biggest challenge in the early days was getting a bank loan for £3000 to get started. I stayed in Ardrossan, approached the local bank and was turned down. I moved on to the next town, and the next, until I was eventually approved for a loan in Ayr! That was my first lesson in resilience – to have confidence in myself, positive thinking and just refuse to take no for an answer.

microtech-0019

Add value to your product

I stood out from other businesses because I didn’t just sell computers – I offered technical support, adding value to the hardware and software products.

In the early 1990s, NHS Ayrshire and Arran tendered a contract to provide a professional computer support service for every GP practice in Ayrshire. It was the first time I had gone through a procurement process. It was a long-convoluted process, and I was determined to not give up and see it through. We won the 3-year contract but this partnership actually lasted 7 years. It was a huge turning point for the business and it cemented our relationship within the healthcare sector.

Deal or no deal

We then became a distributor for a product called Docman – a document management system which enabled practices to go paperless – initially we sold 50 to GP practices. Then NHS Scotland offered a tender to supply the whole of Scotland. It took a year to go through the procurement process. The Final Offer meeting was probably one of the most challenging experiences of my business journey.  We were faced with a very difficult choice at the meeting which could have resulted in us walking away with nothing. It was a terrifying moment when the call eventually came in from the procurement team. I stood up to take the call, hoping to feel more self-assured, more assertive! I even stood on my desk – hoping this would help! We did it – we got the deal and overnight the business grew by £200K per month!

Teamwork makes the dream work

Now I had a different kind of problem! I only had four staff and I needed to quadruple my team of programmers as quickly as possible! I surrounded myself with a great team, and together we supplied 1000 GP practices with the document management system. The total contract value was circa £8m by 2008 and by then, we had saturated the market. While we would still support these customers, we needed to diversify to sustain growth.

Chris2

Understand customer needs

We now had a good understanding of the IT requirements within the healthcare sector, so we decided to grow organically by offering new products and services for our existing customers. A good example of this that most people will recognise is, the Patient Call Systems and Check-in Systems you find in doctors waiting rooms.

We also grew our business by acquisition. We took over Paligap Ltd – a full service design agency that had got into financial difficulties, so we safeguarded six jobs and created Microtech Digital. Microtech Digital offers website design and development. We also bought a company called Telehealth Solutions, which helps patients to manage their long-term health conditions.

You can read more about the full range of our services on our website https://www.microtech-group.co.uk/

Today, we continue to explore new opportunities, we have a turnover of £6m and the future continues to look bright.

Our main challenge continues to be finding the right staff. We are looking for staff from all disciplines including, computing, design, business, customer service, sales, marketing, telecoms and more!

Your road to business success

  • Work hard – develop a work ethic – put in the hours
  • Believe in the power of positive thinking
  • Find a role model – mine is Tony Robins “The Power of Positive Thinking
  • Learn to deal with your challenges by putting them into perspective
  • Never take no for an answer
  • Take every opportunity
  • Understand your market and always be thinking ahead
  • What can you do to support your customers and help them grow?
  • When you have a difficult call to make – stand up! J

If you have enjoyed reading my blog and would like to talk to us about job opportunities, please get in touch with my HR team:

fiona.findlay@microtech-group.co.uk

#AyrshireEntrepreneur