10 reasons why you should study Construction

 1. The job market is strong. This is a fantastic time to join the construction industry as there is currently a shortage of skilled workers. There is expected to be more vacancies over the coming years, too.

2. New houses are in demand. There is also an increased demand for new build homes. The number of new houses built in recent years has risen dramatically and that won’t slow down any time soon.

3. You can earn as you learn. Over 800 apprentices were trained at Ayrshire College in 2014/15, the latest figures available. Why not become one of them and combine your work with studying?

4. You can earn decent money. The salaries on offer in the construction industry are quite lucrative – particularly once you finish an apprentice, and especially if you…

5. Work your way up. The construction industry provides ample opportunity to progress up the career ladder, if you choose to.

6. Be your own boss. Many construction workers have decided instead to set up their own business. If you’re confident enough to take on the challenge and manage your own workload, then the potential rewards are endless.

7. It’s a fulfilling career. Imagine working on the new £53m Ayrshire College campus in Kilmarnock. Or the new Mangum Leisure Centre opening in Irvine. These buildings will be around for decades, perhaps hundreds of years, and you’ll be able to say ‘I helped create that’.

8. It’s a hands-on job. Speak to someone in construction about their job and they’ll often say they just could not work in an office. This industry is perfect with someone who likes to be on the move and get their hands dirty.

9. You won’t get bored. Working in construction involves working indoors, outdoors, with your hands, with tools, on the ground, high up…I think you get the idea: there is so much variety within the construction industry.

10. You’re able to travel. You won’t be confined to just one place in this job. The skills you will pick up allow you to travel absolutely anywhere in the world.

Find out everything you need to know about our Bricklaying courses by watching this short film, featuring our lecturer Billy Hutchison. Ready to apply? Click here to view our Construction courses on offer for 2016/17.

Vocational skills give young people the edge

Guest blog from Jan Hodges OBE, Chief Executive of the Edge Foundation

IMG_0744.JPGIn January 2015, Ayrshire College was awarded £100,000 from the Edge Foundation’s Innovation Fund to support the creation of a Skills Centre of Excellence, located within Irvine Royal Academy, a secondary school in North Ayrshire. This ground-breaking facility is responding to the Scottish Government’s Developing the Young Workforce strategy and is a shining example of how schools, colleges and businesses can work together.

The ethos behind this unique partnership is a determination to prepare young people for work by providing more vocational options in the senior phase of secondary school (fourth year and above).  Courses will be influenced by the needs of the local economy, and better links with the business community will ensure that young people make informed decisions about future study and careers.

Jan Hodges OBE is the chief executive of the Edge Foundation. In this guest blog post, she describes how vocational education can give young people the edge.

The need to support skills

Supporting innovation in education is a huge part of our mission here at the Edge Foundation. Over the years we have worked, often in partnership with those who share our vision, to create projects that offer a practical demonstration of the many benefits of high quality technical, practical and vocational learning.

Picture1Many of these have resulted in the creation of new types of institution and new approaches to blending academic and vocational learning in the curriculum and the Skills Centre of Excellence at Irvine Royal Academy is a great example of this.

We are passionate about the fact that all young people should be able to experience this mix of academic and vocational learning and that, from a young age, they are aware that there are many paths to success. The Centre sets the bar high when it comes to colleges and schools working together to ensure that this happens.

Offering school pupils direct access to a range of vocational courses previously only available at FE colleges is a huge step forward in building the bridge between school and employment. By opening their eyes to the courses, further education options and careers available to them, the Centre will equip these young people with the knowledge and opportunity for them to make informed decisions about their futures; decisions that are based on their individual ambitions and talents.

Not only do we support and encourage the practical demonstration of the benefits of technical, practical and vocational learning but we also celebrate those who choose these pathways. In 2008 we set up VQ Day. This national celebration of vocational excellence has gone from strength to strength and now, in its eighth year, we’re looking for it to be even bigger. We want schools, colleges, learning providers and employers up and down the UK to get involved and celebrate the achievements of their vocational learners.

At the heart of the VQ Day celebrations are the VQ Awards. Nominations are now open and in Scotland we have two awards: VQ Learner of the Year and VQ Employer of the Year. These awards recognise the success of students who take vocational qualifications and the employers who support and promote them in the workplace.

The deadline for entries to both awards is 1 May. You can download everything you need to celebrate VQ Day from the website.

The traditional route through education is losing some of its shine as an increasing number of graduates are struggling to find roles that require their degrees. Now more than ever it is important that the awareness is raised of the many other alternative routes available.

Contrary to many outdated opinions, studying vocationally can open doors to opportunities that would otherwise be unknown. Many vocational courses and foundation apprenticeships with work based elements, such as those on offer at the Skills Centre, encourage the development of the skills and attitude that make the leap from education to employment more of a smooth step.

Working closely with employers can also nurture in students an entrepreneurial streak and a passion for developing their own ideas for businesses. This is a route we are also keen to support at Edge, which is why we launched the Edge Challenge.

Now in its third year, the Edge Challenge is an exciting competition to find the next generation of young entrepreneurs. It is run by the Edge Foundation in partnership with the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and the Gazelle Colleges Group.

The competition is open to 16-25 year old students (past and current) of any FE or Sixth Form college, who have taken (or are undertaking) a course of technical, practical or vocational education and have a bright and original business idea. For more information, and to be in with a chance of winning up to £4000, head to the website.

Whichever path is taken, we want to ensure that all young people leave the system with the confidence, ambition and the skills to succeed, whatever their different abilities and interests. The Skills Centre of Excellence will go a long way to doing this and will be a beacon for technical, practical and vocational learning in Scotland.

We are delighted to be able to support Ayrshire College as they embark on this venture.


How college course inspired award-winning Ayrshire business woman

2015/01/img_0856.jpgAfter taking up a part-time jewellery design course at college, Sheila Kerr discovered she had an eye for detail and a natural ability for design.

She decided to completely change her career and now specialises in the design and manufacture of handmade bespoke designer jewellery for her national and international clientele.

Read Sheila’s story.

In 2007, I was demoted as a result of restructuring. I needed to continue to work but was devastated at this news. My husband Tom noticed an advert for the Silversmith evening class at Ayrshire College and suggested I do something just for me after many years of staff development and academic study. I had always been creative but had never tried jewellery making, although it was always something I had wanted to do.

I enrolled onto the evening class and quickly realised just how much I enjoyed working with metals. I loved it! I learned all the basics of metalworking and silversmith, as well as how to sketch out a design and work to scale. The tutor was great and taught me all I know. I discovered that I had an eye for detail, but I also discovered that I seemed to have a lot of design ideas – this was surprising as I didn’t realise I had this talent until I started jewellery making!

Sheila’s ‘Ailsa’ collection, inspired by the beauty of Ayrshire’ landscape

I originally took up jewellery making as a hobby and at college I enjoyed meeting other students, learning new skills, making mistakes and learning from them. Around this time I was asked by a colleague at work if I would sell one of my own pendants that I was wearing that day. I was slightly bemused, not believing that anyone would want to buy my work. This pendant was created with copper in a scroll design with a silver spiral swirl. I took it home and polished it to a high finish and sold it for £15 – my first sale!

I continued to attend the class while working. I began attending craft fairs, church fetes and any local fairs. I worked mainly with beads and semi-precious stones as I didn’t have a workshop at home. I began to sell my work ever so slowly and then decided to create my own website.

I also started to create bridal tiaras and headpieces – this was self-taught using my skills from previous hobbies of dressmaking and knitting. Next I focused on the bridal market and have exhibited at many wedding fairs, including the Ayrshire Wedding Show and the Scottish Wedding Show at SECC. I began to build up a customer base and thoroughly enjoyed working with brides and creating special pieces for their big day. Finally, In August 2011, I decided to give up my job to dedicate myself full time to my business. I am now based at a design studio in Irvine.

I pride myself in my customer service as well as the quality of my work. I like to get to know my customer, especially for bespoke commissions. This type of work involves stages in the design process and the customer should feel that they are your only customer (even if you have a full order book!) I have also developed my social media marketing (follow me on twitter and facebook) and receive orders this way from as far away as Italy and the USA. My website was created by a professional web designer and I have recently added an e-commerce section.

One of the challenges I face is that it is important in a creative business to always be developing and improving your skills and ideas. My advice would be, always be aware of your market but be confident to create designs that you like yourself and would wear. I try to offer something different from the rest as there is always competition, regardless of your field.

On a day to day basis, life is hectic! I am the designer and maker as well as the business owner. Although I have great support from my husband, I juggle all aspects of the business. I would say that, if you decide to start up a creative business, make sure you seek support and help through a number of agencies. I contacted Business Gateway. I’m a member of the Ayrshire Association of Businesswomen, a member of the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and an alumni of Entrepreneurial Spark where I received amazing support and mentoring. I also applied for grant funding from North Ayrshire Council and was successful.

If you want to set up in business reach out for all the help you can get, research your market and customer, work hard and never give up!

I will be exhibiting at the Jewellery and Watch Trade Show, NEC Birmingham from 1-5 February in the Launch Gallery – my first international show. I’ll be showcasing my ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ Collection inspired by Robert Burns, which won a Mumpreneur Silver Product Award last year.