New Campus Countdown: Focus on Sport and Fitness

As we continue our countdown to the new Kilmarnock Campus, this month we turn the curriculum spotlight on the Sport and Fitness department.

The College’s Centre of Sporting Excellence will accommodate over 300 sport and fitness students as they move from their current home at Townholm.

We caught up with John McTaggart, Curriculum Manager for Sport and Fitness.

Tell us about the Sport & Fitness department at Ayrshire College


We are all about giving people with an interest in sport and fitness the chance to increase their employment opportunities by developing the skills, qualifications and experience that they need to progress.

We have NC level to HND level courses, which range from Coaching and Developing Sport to Fitness, Health and Exercise.

Many of our students have progressed to university and are now working as P.E. teachers, some are even working at the College. Others have gained employment with local councils, sports centres, gyms as well as securing full-time jobs abroad in the industry.

Due to the nature of the course where they have the opportunity to engage with such a wide spectrum of society through placement and volunteering opportunities, students gain essential life skills which enable them to join various uniformed services including the police, fire brigade, and armed services.

We have great opportunities for students, which provide the best chance possible to reach their full potential.

What initiatives are your team involved with?

We pride ourselves on the partnership work we do with various community groups. They are an integral part of our curriculum essential to the professional and personal development of our students.

Students, staff and the College have been recognised for this partnership working, SQA, College Development Network and Youthlink Scotland. We were the first educational establishment to be awarded 5 STAR’s by Scottish Student Sport for our community work.

‘Headline makers’ have included:

  • Sports Coaching students have been fitness testing Ayrshire’s next crop of rugby stars.
  • Fitness students have secured personal trainer jobs at one of Ayrshire’s biggest gyms.
  • Our students are the first in the West of Scotland to receive a brand new specialist coaching course delivered by the Scottish Football Association.

We have had several award-winning students pass through our doors, highlighting the fantastic work we carry out around the College and beyond.

What do you think makes the department successful?

I believe the key to a successful Sport and Fitness department is the willingness of staff and students to engage with the College and the wider community.

Going that ‘extra mile’ is important in order to maximise existing opportunities and create new ones.

How important is working with local employers to the department?

Working with local employers is essential to the department. In recent years we have had four former students gain full-time employment with East Ayrshire Active School. This is as a direct result of our students gaining work experience with A/S, be mentored by the A/S staff alongside school staff and community partners.

We work closely with Ayr United and Kilmarnock F.C. who have employed many of our students on a part-time and full-time basis.

What facilities and equipment will the students benefit from?

We are very excited to introduce our students to our new 3G, floodlit football pitch. This will be an innovative new area for our students to learn, have fun and reach their potential. We will also have a modern new games hall and dance studio.

There will be a big focus on the health and fitness courses as we will have an industry-designed gym and fitness facilities which will provide our students with enhanced essential skills, knowledge, opportunities and experiences which will make them even more attractive to potential employers.

There will also be fantastic sponsorship opportunities available to local companies as well as our facilities being available to the public. We are looking forward to using this ‘new era’ as the chance to make our Sport and Fitness department even better.

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

A list of all Sport and Fitness related courses can be found by clicking here.

New Campus Countdown: Focus on Hair, Beauty, Complementary Therapies and Make-Up Artistry

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

We caught up with Angela Sheridan Head of Learning and Skills – Hair, Beauty, Complementary Therapies and Make-up Artistry.

Tell us about the Hair, Beauty, Complementary Therapies and Make-Up Artistry Department at Ayrshire College.


Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy runs at Kilmarnock, Kilwinning and Ayr Campuses, Complementary Therapy at Kilmarnock and Kilwinning and Make-up Artistry at Ayr and Kilwinning.

We deliver a range of full-time courses for students. Part-time courses are available for Hairdressing Modern Apprentices. Modern Apprentices can choose to be assessed in the workplace or attend college one day per week. In addition we have a range of short evening courses for those who would prefer to study part-time in the evening.

Our curriculum work closely with the Business Development Team and employers, to devise bespoke courses to meet business needs. The main aim of our curriculum design is to provide meaningful learning which incorporates real live briefs that ensure progression and preparation for industry, whilst developing transferable skills.

Our students are encouraged to take part in activities to develop not only practical skills and confidence, but to open their eyes to the wider environment. This in turn builds on skills for learning, life and work and provides invaluable experiences.

Our students take part in many competitions and have won many awards. These competitions develop confident individuals and recognise excellence in learning.

Most of our courses are recognised by HABIA (Hair and Beauty Industry Authority). These qualifications are recognised internationally and past students have secured employment abroad in places as far as Dubia and Australia. It’s exciting for our students to experience such great opportunities.

Working in a diverse and ever evolving industry, which is continuously launching new products and techniques, is both rewarding and challenging.

What initiatives are your team involved with?

Our area is involved in many vocational and ethical initiatives. We recently launched our “Man in the Mirror” campaign which highlights and addresses gender imbalance and stereotyping in our area. An initial event provided taster treatments and encouraged feedback on experiences and interest, pertaining to the industry and our courses. The campaign was launched on International Men’s day at Ayr Campus and was a huge success.


It is important that we are producing highly skilled and creative individuals who have the ability to promote their skills successfully. We work closely with many professional product houses to develop retailing skills and our commercial environments ensure that our students have many opportunities to develop promotional, practical and time management skills to meet industry requirements.

How important are Modern Apprentices and work-placements to the department?

Modern Apprentices are very important to the department. They help the College support employers across Ayrshire and beyond. It’s good for full-time students to see Modern Apprentices in college at the same time as them – it inspires them to secure employment for themselves.

Work-placement opportunities for full-time students are invaluable and contribute immensely to the development of their skills and knowledge. The partnership is a two-way process with our employers appreciating the benefits of having a willing student to assist with workplace tasks.


What do you think makes the department so successful?

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

Our staff also work well with colleagues from other departments such as Student Services, Funding and Inclusive Learning to ensure students are supported.

What skills are you looking for in your students?

We look for good employability skills and welcome individuals who are creative, hard working, self-motivated, self-disciplined, good communicators, team players and enjoy working with people. To be successful students must continually practise to perfect their time-management, practical skills and promotional skills.


The main challenge we face is encouraging young adults at 16/17 years old to think about what sort of career they want to have, and ensure that once they have made this important decision they are able to stick with it for four years during their studies.

We work tirelessly with students so it is very rewarding for lecturers to see students evolve and develop throughout their time at College. They go from being uncertain about what to do, undertake intensive training and at the end of their college journey are industry ready.

What options are open to Hair, Beauty, Complementary Therapies and Make-Up Artistry students once they have finished their courses?

We offer courses at different levels, meaning a progression route is open to all students. Full-time students have an opportunity to progress to the next level and graduating students can progress to employment, self-employment or degree courses.

Apprentices are either work-based or attend college on a day release basis to complete their qualification. The majority of our hairdressing apprentices secure permanent employment after they qualify. Many transferable skills which can allow them to branch off into different career routes.


How important is working with local employers to the department?

Local employers are very important as they support our work experience programme. Each year, approximately 100 full-time students take part in a block of work experience. We also help local employers to recruit by providing college salon spaces for group interviewing and skill testing days. Employers are able observe groups of students who fit their job description and students benefit from the process and the feedback they receive. It has taken years to build and consolidate these partnerships which provide real benefits to students, the College and the employer.

What can students expect from the Hair, Beauty and Complementary Therapies department at the new campus?

Students can expect modern salons reflecting industry standards, with state of the art equipment and professional product ranges. It will offer students a great chance to experience a realistic vision of their future career. In addition our commercial salon will provide our graduating students with the opportunity of an internship in an environment which replicates a high street salon.

What does the future hold for the Hair, Beauty, Complementary Therapies and Make-up Artistry department at Ayrshire College?

We will continue our great work with local employers and as a team use our skills to help propel our students into a range of careers. We will keep up-to-date with industry advancements to ensure our learners are well prepared for our ever evolving industry.
Overall, we will continue to strive to provide a seven star service to students, staff and local employers across Ayrshire and contribute to the wellbeing of our communities.


New Campus Countdown: Focus on Construction

The countdown is on until the official opening of our new campus in Kilmarnock’s Hill Street. Each month we plan to unveil a new curriculum area in the new campus as we hear from employers, lecturers and students about their hopes for the campus and how the sector will evolve. This month, the spotlight is on Construction Technology and Trades.

Graeme Donaldson is the Curriculum Manager for Trades and splits his time between the College’s Kilmarnock and Kilwinning campuses. To help us countdown to the new campus, Graeme spoke to us about the construction curriculum area in the College, what the College expects of its construction students and what he is most looking forward to from the new campus.

The Construction department sits within the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] directorate in the College. In Kilmarnock, our construction courses are delivered in our Townholm satellite campus. The main courses taught in Townholm are Brickwork, Carpentry and Joinery, and Painting and Decorating at a range of levels. The department also delivers a Construction Craft National 4 course to East Ayrshire secondary school pupils.

The construction sector employs over 8% of the UK workforce and is a growing industry with more than 182,000 new jobs promised by 2018. We asked Graeme to describe the main skills that students need to succeed within this industry:

“One of the main skills which students need to succeed is to show a keen interest in the construction sector. Courses contain a large amount of practical work, and students need to be fairly fit and prepared to carry out manual tasks and activities. At the College students will also receive plenty of theory based work to expand their knowledge and understanding of their trade specific course.

Throughout all our courses, we aim to embed a range of transferable skills like timekeeping, attendance, the ability to follow instructions, solve basic problems and learn basic industry skills. There are great chances for students to progress to a higher level of study if they have the right mind set and are committed to enhancing their skills and personal development.

It is also important that students cooperate with curriculum and service staff to achieve the best learning experience possible to set them up for their future career.”

Graeme believes that the courses offered by Ayrshire College are a great starting block for students with ambitions of a future career within the industry:

“In order to help students as best we can, we help them to develop the transferable skills that employers are looking for. We also make sure that there are progression routes in place for students to ensure they get the most out of their time with us.

In the Carpentry and Joinery Level 5 course, we will be sending students on industrial work placements for four weeks. During their month long experience they get the chance to experience a realistic working environment, allowing them to gain a much more detailed insight into the daily structure of their chosen trade. At the moment we are hoping to provide work placements with East Ayrshire Council’s Building and Works department with the hope of expansion for the near future.

If students excel during their placement and the company has an upcoming vacancy, we work together to help the student apply for the position. This is a great opportunity for students to experience what their industry is like and help them put the skills learnt in class into action. It is also great for local businesses, the local community and the economy.”

Looking ahead, the new Kilmarnock Campus in Hill Street will be home to over 100 construction students. With more facilities available to students and staff, Graeme can’t wait until the doors are opened in eleven months’ time.

“As the clock ticks down, I am very much looking forward to construction staff and students being part of the wider College community. The new Kilmarnock Campus will bring construction students together with students from other curriculum areas which I believe will add to our students’ learning experience.”  

In the new campus, construction facilities will include brickwork project space; brickwork workshops; joinery machine shop; two joinery workshops and painting and decorating workshops. The prospect of working in such surroundings is also striking an excited chord with Graeme.

“A big advantage of the new campus will be the bespoke trade workshops and state of the art theory classrooms which can only enhance the student experience during their time with us. We will continue to deliver a range of courses to meet industry standards which allow students the chance to gain sufficient practical skills and consolidate their knowledge.

“With more than a third of people working in the construction industry becoming their own boss, the opportunities open to students don’t just end when they graduate from their chosen course. Some students progress to a higher level, some are interested in construction management and some are eager to be let loose on the outside world.

“There are many different options for students within this sector and the new Kilmarnock campus will enhance these even further. It really is an exciting time for the students of Ayrshire College!”

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