Meet the Kilwinning 2018 graduation prizewinners

In the lead-up to the Kilwinning Campus graduations we will unveil our graduation prizewinners. At the Kilwinning graduations, there are 10 recipients in total.

First up is Angela Leishman, HNC Administration and Information Technology, who is receiving the Student of the Year – Business, Administration and Accounts Award.

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College has been very enjoyable. You soon get to know all the staff on the Kilwinning Campus, it has a nice welcoming family atmosphere. The staff are all so nice and helpful, people know who you are, and are willing to go the extra mile. It’s a very nurturing culture and you feel as though you matter.

The diversity of students who attend the College surprised me. I expected mainly young people, but there are people of all ages. I have learned age is not a barrier. As the retirement age increases and people are working longer, there must be a need to upskill, so you do meet lots of people here who are changing their career.

I’ve learnt that I’m more than just a mum! I’ve got something worthwhile to offer and I can make a good contribution to any team. I’ve learned to set myself goals and it’s really fulfilling to work towards achieving them. College has definitely raised my aspirations about what I can achieve.

I enjoy helping and supporting my peers. One of my friends had to resit her graded unit and I helped her to prepare for this. It was a very rewarding experience, especially as she passed.

My lecturer recommended me for a voluntary work placement with the Events team in the College. This experience helped put the theory I have learned into practice and also strengthened my application for the summer internship. Both of these experiences provide me with opportunities to learn in the workplace through constructive feedback, and provide exposure to different experiences. These will give me more self-confidence and an insight into working in a large organisation.

If I was to sum up my college experience in three words, I would say it’s been enlightening, worthwhile and enjoyable.


Meet the Kilmarnock 2018 graduation prizewinners

In the lead-up to the Kilmarnock Campus graduation we will unveil our graduation prizewinners. At the Kilmarnock graduation, there are 10 recipients in total.

First up is Sarah Kennedy, HNC Childhood Practice, who will receive the Student of the Year – Early Years Award.

SOY Sarah Kennedy_Instagram Post.pngHaving my two children ignited an interest in working with kids. I decided it was the right time to build a career for myself and my family, so I applied for the NC Level 5 Early Education and Childcare course.

I had many concerns about coming to college, as I would need to organise childcare for my children and I would still need to work part-time, so my routines would completely change. I wasn’t sure how I would manage with juggling work, my studies and my family life.

The staff at the College were very supportive and I’m so happy that I took the leap three years ago to begin this career. As a mature student with two children, I found my whole experience was excellent and it’s enabled me to move forward onto university – which I never would have thought I could achieve.

I had three great years at Ayrshire College and every year of my course was interesting. I had three separate work placements for each year which was vital for me to put all I had learned academically in college into practice. It also allowed me to gain experience in the area of work where I hope to work once I have completed my studies.

I had to be organised throughout my studies and placements, and I feel like I’ve gained a lot of self-confidence as through all I have achieved at college it has allowed me to believe I can achieve anything I set my mind to.

My time at Ayrshire College has shown me that hard work and commitment can make you achieve whatever you set your heart on. I would highly recommend college to anyone wanting to study or have a change in career.

I’m now studying in the second year of a Childhood Studies university course and I’m looking forward to completing that and start a career within the childcare sector.


Meet the Ayr 2018 graduation prizewinners

In the lead-up to the Ayr Campus graduation we will unveil our graduation prizewinners.  At the Ayr graduation, there are 15 recipients in total.

Next, is Student of the Year – Making a Difference in the Community Award, Lynette Fisher, HNC Administration and IT.

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“I had recently returned to Scotland after living in New Zealand for a number of years before starting college.  I wanted to gain the skills and qualifications needed to re-enter work to provide for my family.

When I applied to Level 5 Administration and IT, my original plan was to complete that course and then apply for jobs. But when I realised how much I enjoyed learning again, I completed Level 5 and 6 as a one year fast track. I then completed the HNC, and later the HND.

I enjoyed every part of the course! I particularly enjoyed doing my graded unit project as well as the Business Culture and Strategy module.  This helped me to make the decision to apply to university.

This award was completely unexpected and I feel very honoured and humbled. I think it will encourage me to always do my best and to push myself to achieve my goals in the future. It’s also a great addition to my CV.

The highlight of my time at the college has to be enhancing my confidence skills and obtaining the grades I needed to continue my studies at degree level.  I am about to enter third year in Business Management at university.

Ayrshire College is a fantastic place to study. I definitely would encourage others to study here, particularly people like myself who are mature students and are worrying about returning to education.”


Starting a business – Bhaile Bakery is a breadwinner

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Diana’s lecturer Stuart Fitzsimmons drops into Bhaile Craft Bakery in Ayr

Diana Parusheva, a former student on our bakery course, has followed her dreams and passion for bread and set up her own business; Bhaile Craft Bakery.

Pronounced B-à-l-æ, it means “My Village Bakery” in Gaelic. It’s an artisan bakery and coffee shop in Ayr (behind Aldi) and on 27 August a new shop was officially opened in Ayr Street in Troon. With their first year anniversary coming up in a couple of months since opening, the artisan bakery has been winning awards as well as winning the hearts of the locals.

How did it all start?

My love affair with bread began with a five-day bread-making course at Lesleys Kitchen Bread School in Muirkirk.

Lesley is a really passionate teacher, and her enthusiasm rubbed off and I was hooked. I started to experiment by making different products, and I took them into my daughters nursery and everyone just loved them. I was encouraged to take a stall at the local farmers market, and the demand for my bread just grew from here. The busier I became the more I realised that I could open up my own shop. I came to Ayrshire College and completed a one year bakery course. I learned new skills and learned to work in an industrial kitchen. My experience helped me to raise my aspirations even more, and when I left college I was ready to make my dream a reality.

Who are your customers?

My location in Ayr means that I don’t have passing trade, so customers have to seek me out – and they do! Most of my customers are from Alloway and they are very loyal. 50% come in every day and we’ve got to know their names. We are like a big family exchanging happy banter. Word of mouth is the way I am growing my business. Once people discover us and taste our products, they come back for more. Every day there is something new and we love surprising our customers with new ideas. Our products are great looking and they taste phenomenal. I love how proud my staff are of the products they bake. It’s my happy place, and it’s a great feeling to be part of such a creative team.

What makes your bread unique?

It’s made from scratch – just like my grandmother used to make. All that goes into my sourdough is flour, water and salt. Start with beautiful stoneground locally milled flour, add flaky sea salt and crisp Scottish water, mix until the dough comes together and then let nature and time take its course. About 40 hours later, we have a delicious loaf. There are no additives or chemicals, which means the bread is good for you. There is nothing else like it in Ayr.

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Were you really inspired by your grandmother?

She didn’t teach me to bake, she was a science teacher and I spent a lot of my time growing up in the school. I learned about the importance of a work ethic and never giving up on your dreams. My daughter will be the same and will grow up around this business – it will help her to be more grounded. This business is everything to me, nothing else matters.

You have a good business brain – did you come from a family business background?

No, my parents were both doctors, so I come from quite an academic background. Running a business is all new to me, and I am learning something new every day. When I reflect on what I have done in the last year, it’s actually quite scary. But, I just get on with it. When you are doing something you love, time passes so quickly, you become energised and find you develop a “can do attitude!”

I received a little help from Business Gateway and got advice on setting up my premises. I am currently experiencing some challenges as the planning department are questioning the retail side to my business because I am based in a retail park. I have received so much support to keep us open, I employ 14 people and we have a successful business. There are so many reasons to keep going on this site. It is stressful waiting to hear the outcome.

I have designed and built my own website and I have enjoyed this side of my business too.

Where do get your ideas from?

I trained as an artist and photographer so I am a very creative person. I have nurtured and developed a fantastic team who just love to create something new and are constantly bouncing ideas off one another. We get inspiration from what’s seasonal, what’s trendy, magazine features, recipe books and the internet. We like to try new combinations and our customers love to try our samples. It’s important to always innovate.

I hear you really are a breadwinner!

Yes – In the last nine months we have achieved amazing success in regional and national competitions. We are winners of:

  • Great Taste Award 2018 – for our French Sourdough
  • Chamber of Commerce Most Entrepreneurial Business of the Year

We are finalists for:

Ayrshire Chamber Business Awards 2018

  • Start up Business of the Year
  • Ayrshire Food and Drink Award

Association of Scottish Businesswomen National Business Awards 2018

  • Most Innovative Start-up of the Year Award
  • Most Enterprising Business of the Year

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What are the opportunities in your sector?

There are so many opportunities to help me develop my business. One option is to diversify into the wholesale market. However, I don’t want to do that, as it will dilute my product and I want to remain in control of my brand.

There are opportunities to enhance my products with bread making technology. I would like to learn more about how technology can help me develop my products in this niche market.

I am interested in exploring international markets so that I could sell my products in Europe. My bread has a European style with Scottish influences, so I believe there would be a market for us there. I am a member of the Scottish Bakers and we’ve made connections with members of the Department for International Trade to help us enter new markets.

Right now, my priority is opening a new shop in Troon. It’s a great location next to other artisan food shops, and I am excited to bring our new concept artisan bakery and coffee shop to our customers in the heart of Troon. On 1 September the Troon Art Club will be exhibiting their work in both bakeries. It’s a great opportunity to combine my love of baking with my passion for art.