International Girls in ICT Day 2016


International Girls in ICT Day takes place each year on the fourth Thursday in April.

This year it will be celebrated on 28 April with activity taking place across the world to promote the importance of attracting more girls and women into computing.

Ayrshire College wants more young people to take advantage of increasing opportunities in digital occupations and we are fully behind this initiative. Here is a flavour of what to expect from us in the days leading up to International Girls in ICT Day.

Industry body e-Skills UK forecast that there could be up to 11,000 job opportunities in Scotland each year in technology roles. Last week, the Institute for Public Policy Research and Burning Glass launched Where the work is to compare entry-level employer demand for occupations such as IT technicians and the number of students completing related courses. It reinforced industry forecasts that there are good opportunities available in Scotland for college leavers with relevant qualifications, predicting over 5,500 jobs with an average salary of over £30,000.

Despite these opportunities too few young people, particularly young women, are choosing to build a career in IT. Women are under-represented in IT occupations and make up just 17% of IT specialists working in the UK. At Ayrshire College, we are trying to address this by sparking an interest in computer coding and technology at a young age.

We work with schools to stimulate interest in IT careers amongst young people, for example by organising CoderDojo clubs for 7 to 17 year-olds who want to learn to code. This year, to coincide with International Girls in ICT Day, we are hosting CoderDojo clubs at our Kilmarnock Campus for girls and boys, and at Barassie Primary School.


This week we are also launching three Foundation Apprenticeships for S4/S5 pupils in schools across Ayrshire, including IT:Software Development – click here for information. An information session will be held on the eve of International Girls in ICT Day at 5.30pm on Wednesday 27 April in our Kilmarnock Campus.

And look out for more exciting news later this week about our commitment to provide opportunities for young people to build careers in this exciting growth sector.

Each year, throughout the week that International Girls in ICT Day takes place, we publish posts on our blog from women in computing – some in senior positions in the industry, some at the start of their careers, and others studying at college. This year, our contributors include:

Keep checking into our blog for more!




Introducing Foundation Apprenticeships

Ayrshire school pupils now have the opportunity to apply for a brand new work-based qualification while still at school. Jane Henderson, Developing the Young Workforce Manager at Ayrshire College, explains what these new qualifications are all about.

What is a Foundation Apprenticeship?

A Foundation Apprenticeship is a great opportunity for senior school pupils to learn in college and in the workplace over two years while they are still at school. They have been designed to be challenging and exciting for pupils. A big part of the challenge is the independence the pupil has travelling to college and completing the course while they are taking other subjects at school.

Probably the biggest challenge though is actually completing the work-based learning, but this is what makes the Foundation Apprenticeship so distinctive and attractive.

Who can do a Foundation Apprenticeship?

Foundation Apprenticeships are aimed at all school pupils across Ayrshire to offer them valuable industry recognised vocational qualification with relevant work experience before they leave school. Although a pupil can start a Foundation Apprenticeship in S4 and complete it by the end of S5, many pupils will opt to do it over S5 and S6.

How does the course work?

Foundation Apprenticeships are held at college two afternoons a week during school hours. They are counted as one of the pupil’s subjects in their school timetable. Each Foundation Apprenticeship is different, for example Social Services (Children and Young People) in year one will have 4 hours of college per week and ten days out at placement in total. In year two, they have ten hours per week in a work placement.

The second year of each Foundation Apprenticeship has more work placement hours than the first, to enable the pupil to gain as much experience with an employer as possible. There is lots of support for pupils when they are out in a work placement. For example, workplace assessors will visit frequently to make sure everything is going well and there will be a buddy or a mentor in the workplace specifically to support the pupil as they learn.

What is the link with employers?

Employers are very involved in Foundation Apprenticeships. Each pupil will spend time in work placements with companies in the industry sector relevant to the course. The employer will engage with pupils and see first-hand how committed, skilled and motivated they are.

Foundation Apprenticeships are a great step towards reducing the gap between education and employment. Employers get to be a part of developing the young workforce in Ayrshire before they even leave school.

What makes a Foundation Apprenticeship different from other college courses available to pupils while at school?

A Foundation Apprenticeship is a two year course and a large part is a practical work placement in a company. Most other courses that school pupils can take at college last for one year and they are taught in the college only. When they finish the Foundation Apprenticeship, pupils are awarded an industry recognised qualification. This prepares them well for applying for a relevant Modern Apprenticeship when they leave school.

How does a Foundation Apprenticeship differ from a Modern Apprenticeship?

A Modern Apprenticeship can only be taken when the pupil has left school and is in a job. It is  different in that a person is employed as an apprentice for a company and learns on the job. A Foundation Apprenticeship provides a pupil with the foundational elements of a Modern Apprenticeship.

What are some of the benefits of completing a Foundation Apprenticeship?

One of the biggest issues young people face when they leave school is not having work experience. Pupils gain a lot of experience from work placements and are exposed to the world of work and employer expectations.

The opportunity of completing a Foundation Apprenticeship could launch a young person into a career path that could lead them to take additional college courses, a Modern Apprenticeship, university courses or a job when they leave school.

What Foundation Apprenticeships can be taken at Ayrshire College?

We are offering three Foundation Apprenticeships in:

  • Information Technology (Software Development)
  • Social Services (Children and Young People)
  • Engineering.

Each course is at SCQF level 6 and is a two year commitment.

Where can I find out more information?

Check out our website for more information


Care experienced student tells her story

Across this entire week we have been publishing a series of posts to highlight the topic of care experienced students.

Helen Canning, Director of Student Services, started the series by writing about how the College is supporting care experienced young people, after signing the Pledge to Listen and undergoing Corporate Parenting training delivered by Who Cares? Scotland.

Then Robert Foster, Who Cares? Scotland’s Corporate Parenting Officer, blogged about his role in working with colleges and universities to improve the outcomes of care experienced young people.

Yesterday we welcomed care leaver and Who Cares? Scotland ambassador Ashley Cameron to the blog.

We are now delighted to to hear from a current care experienced student at Ayrshire College, Amy-Beth Miah.

Amy-Beth Miah

“I left school with nothing. I was leaving the care system and was in a bad way. Yet any time I had a breakdown, the College would help me out. College was always my pick-me-up – any time I fell down they’d be there to catch me and help me back up. Not only have they helped me decide what I want to do with my life, they’ve given me the driving force to make it a reality.”

Amy-Beth Miah is a Social Sciences student who began at the College on a HIVE (Hope, Inspiration and Vision in Education) course.

The HIVE is a bespoke learning space at Ayrshire College which offers a range of access programmes for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years. The courses are designed to prepare young people, who have challenges in their lives and who may previously have had negative experiences of education for a range of different reasons, for further college courses and employment.

“Being a care leaver, I’ve noticed there are a lot of people who have left care that end up far too institutionalised. They go from being in care to being in secure units and often end up in jail. I know people who have come out of jail and re-offended deliberately to get back inside, because they have nothing out here. They don’t know how to pay a bill, or how to fill out an application form.

“I want to change that; an ambition that stems from my own experiences.”

Amy-Beth has set up a care experienced support group for students at the college who had experienced care.

She is now studying an HNC Social Sciences course and has ambitions to study at The Open University once she has completed her HND.

She dreams of being able to offer effective support to other care leavers once she graduates.

Much like Bobby McCorriston, an Employability and Engagement Officer at the College who delivers the Kilmarnock Prince’s Trust programme, has done for her.

“He really is my hero. He’s been a huge help to me. Even though I had all of my outside life going on, he didn’t turn his back on me. His attitude was never a case of ‘you can’t’, but rather ‘you can – and here’s how.’”

Amy-Beth was speaking after the College signed the pledge to support young people brought up in care after becoming the first college in Scotland to receive corporate parenting training delivered by the Who Cares? Scotland charity.

Guest Post – Ashley Cameron on being a Care Leaver Ambassador

Across this week we will be publishing a series of posts to highlight the topic of care experienced students.

Helen Canning, Director of Student Services, kicked off the week by writing about how the College is supporting care experienced young people, after signing the Pledge to Listenand undergoing Corporate Parenting training delivered by Who Cares? Scotland.

Yesterday, Who Cares? Scotland’s Corporate Parenting Officer, Robert Foster, blogged about his role in working with colleges and universities to improve the outcomes of care experienced young people.

Today we are delighted to welcome Ashley Cameron to the blog.

Ashley is a care leaver who works with Who Cares? Scotland in an ambassadorial role. Ashley visited the College with Robert for the Corporate Parenting Training and spoke openly about her journey.

Robert Foster

I am very proud of Ayrshire College – the first post-16 education body to receive Corporate Parenting training in Scotland. Just four short years ago there was no mention or discussion of care experienced students in Scotland or how we support them in our colleges and universities.

The fact that Ayrshire College has taken the Who Cares? Scotland Pledge, to listen to the voices and experiences of care experienced young people, emphasises their commitment to supporting care experienced young people both in the college and in the community.

It is important now that colleges and universities across Scotland discuss the care identity and promote this as a positive when involving care experienced students.

I used to be ashamed of the fact that I come from a care background, that it was my fault that I ended up in care. The truth of the matter is that I was taken into care through no fault of my own but rather through the fact that my birth parents were not in a position to care for me. It is important then that colleges and universities know this and convey this view to any prospective care experienced students as well as in the wider community.

Our care identity isn’t the only part of our identity, but how can we ever hope to understand it, to move on and achieve our aspirations in life, if society holds this negative view that we are all “bad kids” and trouble makers. You only have to look at students like Amy-Beth Miah at Ayrshire College to know that she is an inspiration to other young people and someone who does not let stigma or negativity stop her from achieving her dreams.

It is important then that young people with experience of care are supported in a way that they don’t feel judged or stigmatised for identifying themselves.

When growing up in foster care, I was repeatedly told I would never get to university no matter how much I wanted it – “Kids like you don’t get to go to university.”

From being bullied by classmates and being treated differently at school by teachers as a kid, to having employers talk about me behind my back as a young adult: “What did you employ her for? She’s a care kid, she will never last.”

Let’s not talk about our care experienced young people in this way. We have the same potential and dreams as every other young person in life. Support us to get into education and then to stay there until we have succeeded.

That’s why I am proud of Ayrshire College. They have turned “these young people can’t” into “these young people CAN and with our support they can achieve their educational aspirations!”

Guest Post – Robert Foster on the work of Who Cares? Scotland

Across this week we are publishing a series of posts to highlight the topic of care experienced students.

Helen Canning, Director of Student Services, wrote yesterday about how the College is supporting care experienced young people, after signing the Pledge to Listen and undergoing Corporate Parenting training delivered by Who Cares? Scotland.

Today we welcome Robert Foster – a Corporate Parenting Officer at Who Cares? Scotland who helped deliver the training to our staff – to discuss his role in working with colleges and universities to improve the outcomes of care experienced young people.

Who Cares Scotland

When the Commission on Widening Access published its report with final recommendations on how to improve access to higher education, I immediately scanned it to see if they had included anything on the poor outcomes of care experienced people. I wasn’t let down.

The Commission did a really important thing before publishing their final report: they listened. They listened to a whole host of care experienced young people who told the Commission about their experiences of accessing education and how having experience of being brought up in care had impacted their chances.

The Commission’s report comes at a time when the terrible outcomes young people in care face are in the spotlight. On 1 April 2015, every college and university in Scotland became a Corporate Parent to care experienced young people. A responsibility that brings new duties and great opportunities.

For the last six months, Who Cares? Scotland has been working in partnership with Ayrshire College because the college wants to listen to care experienced young people in order to be the best corporate parent they can be.

Robert Foster

For too long the educational outcomes for care experienced young people have been drastically lower than the general population. Only 40% of pupils with care experience gain a National 5 compared to 84% of their non-looked after peers.

Just 7% of care experienced young people leave school to take up a place at university. That is an improvement on ten years ago but still a long way from the 39% of the general population who go to university straight from school.

A lack of qualifications is a very obvious barrier to any young person accessing further or higher education but physically not being in school to learn and build relationships could have far wider repercussions.

Almost 80% of care experienced young people leave school at 16 and they are also seven times more likely to be excluded from school. When taking into consideration the upheaval of multiple placement moves and the number of meetings they attend during school hours, is it any wonder that care experienced young people make up such a small proportion of college and university student numbers?

I have a five year old son, and I want him to achieve everything he sets out to do in life. Corporate parents should have the same aspiration for their children. The fact that the education outcomes for this group of young people are so low should be front page news. These are Scotland’s children and they are being let down.

I am really lucky that my job at Who Cares? Scotland allows me to work with colleges and universities like Ayrshire College to support care experienced young people to have their voice heard, to ensure corporate parents and groups like the Commission on Widening Access can make the changes that are desperately needed.

Many of the young people I work with don’t have formal qualifications let alone university degrees, but they are amongst the most capable and aspirational young people I have ever met. They want to be estate agents, lawyers, politicians, blacksmiths and singers. If we do not work together to make education more accessible, those aspirations will turn to nothing.

Our work with colleges and universities is something that has never been done before in Scotland. The project, Corporate Parenting and You, is funded by the Scottish Funding Council as they seek to deliver on their national ambition for care experienced students.
We want to see colleges and universities take action and stand up for care experienced young people, and this a challenge that Ayrshire College have grasped with both hands. We want to create learning environments that are welcoming, supportive and accessible. That’s why we’re happy that the college has taken the Pledge to Listen, and ensure the voices of care experienced young people will be heard as the college begin to develop their Corporate Parenting plan.

The college and university staff that we are training take their new responsibilities seriously. Very few were aware of the issues facing care experienced young people or the barriers that stop them from achieving their full potential. We have, however, seen a real willingness across college and university staff to make life better for care experienced people. There is recognition that it will be an institution’s people that make the difference.

As well as providing face to face training, we are developing an online training resource for colleges and universities. We want to ensure that all staff have an understanding of the issues faced by care experienced young people and know their duties as a Corporate Parent. Who Cares? Scotland will also be hosting the first ever Corporate Parenting in FE/HE conference on 7th June. We’re bringing together staff from every college and university in Scotland to share ideas and give an overview of the work that we have done so far, and showcase the great work that colleges like Ayrshire College are doing to be the parent that care experienced young people so desperately need.