Summer - June 2014
If a week’s a long time in politics, how about a year in Scottish further education? Here we are at the end of our first academic session since West College Scotland came into being. And what a year it’s been. I’ve had a look back at the August 2013 edition of Fusion, the first following merger. Here’s what I said then: “Our first year as West College Scotland represents an important opportunity to establish ourselves and start to build a reputation to be proud of. It is the responsibility of every member of staff to play their part in making sure we achieve that collective ambition.” Well, you haven’t disappointed. I really believe as a College we have grabbed that opportunity - we ARE building a reputation to be proud of. And I want to thank each and every one of you for playing your part in achieving that. It is important to reflect on what we have achieved, despite the challenges we have all faced in one way or another. We shouldn’t underestimate the significance of bringing three distinct organisations together, whilst continuing our drive for excellence in everything we do and ensuring we create the maximum impact with our external stakeholders. We do know where we could have done better or could have done things in a different way. We remain committed to ensuring that we are genuinely a ‘learning organisation’ where staff at all levels are encouraged to try new ways of working, where we learn from our experience and where we improve as we go forward.
You’ll each have your own memories of an eventful year. My own was receiving a letter of thanks from Scotland’s most senior civil servant, Sir Peter Housden, following his visit to the College. He told me he
was hugely impressed with the spirit of the place – the drive, optimism and good humour of the staff and the sparkle in the eye of your students. For me, that captures the essence of what our College can and should be. Let’s remember some of the things we’ve done together: We’ve merged three into one. We’ve restructured. We’ve harmonised pay and conditions. We’ve continued to win awards. We’ve received widespread media recognition for what we do. We’ve attracted some of the most high profile and influential people in the land to see our work and meet our students and staff. We’ve even got a new Chair in Keith McKellar.
We’re building a reputation based on the quality of our teaching and the student experience. That reputation extends to our local communities, local businesses and employers and other key partners. Credit for all of that lies with you, our staff. I look forward to seeing you when we move into Year 2 in the life of West College Scotland. I’m conscious that we have a lot to do at the start of our new term. We’ll be implementing new ways of working and continuing to finalise our structures. That’s why I do not intend to host an ‘all staff’ event at the start of term – and I know you appreciate the logistics that go into making an event of that magnitude happen. I do, however, intend to meet with staff by Department in the first few weeks to set out our priorities going forward. I want to hear your views on whether or not you believe there is merit in hosting an ‘all staff’ event at some point during each year. In the meantime, enjoy reading about some of your achievements during our first year. It’s an impressive list. Thanks again and have a wonderful summer with your families and friends. See you in August!
And we’ve done all this while keeping our students at the heart of everything we do. We are now a huge organisation and we could not have made so many transformational changes without your professionalism, hard work, patience and good humour.
Audrey PS: Good luck to everyone involved in the Hair & Beauty Salon at the Games’ Village. Can’t wait to hear your stories when we get back!
Making an impact Not quite a year old – but what an impact West College Scotland is making! We’ve hosted visits from politicians from the very top echelons of government, including the Deputy First Minister and the country’s most senior civil servant. And the man in charge of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games is set to deliver our first Annual Lecture for our external stakeholders. Not bad for a College which few people had even heard of this time last year. We’ve also had some terrific media coverage, too. In early June, for example, the final report of Sir Ian Wood’s Commission into Scotland’s Young Workforce was published and West College Scotland staff and students dominated the main BBC and STV news reports! That same day, Vice-Principal Educational Leadership Stephanie Graham was a guest on BBC Radio Scotland’s flagship news programme, Good Morning Scotland. Then Liz Connolly, our Vice-Principal Corporate Development, took part in a fortyminute discussion on BBC Radio Scotland’s Morning Call programme with Sir Ian Wood himself. Back in February, the Scottish Government chose our College as the venue for the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP to launch a £13 million pound funding package. Then in March, Shona Robison, the Commonwealth Games Minister, formally launched the Hair & Beauty Salon in March. This generated positive publicity
for the College and was headline news on STV. We also had great newspaper and radio coverage. On the morning of 23rd April 2014, Angela Constance was sworn in as Cabinet Secretary by Scotland’s most senior judges at a formal ceremony in Edinburgh. She then jumped in her ministerial car and made her way straight to our Clydebank campus where she heard a presentation on the marvellous pre-apprenticeship programme we run with the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust. They wanted her to know ahead of the Wood Commission’s final report that bestpractise was already happening at West College Scotland. Our reputation seems to be growing in government circles! We also received a request from Sir Peter Housden – Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Cabinet and the First Minister’s main adviser – to be shown round the College. He came in May and met students and staff involved in the Games and also construction and electrical engineering students. Everyone involved in these visits has enjoyed the buzz that goes with them – especially when the TV cameras descend! But the important thing is that together they enhance our reputation and highlight the amazing work of our staff and students.
Some more achievements at a glance
Great Tapestry of Scotland, Paisley – the longest tapestry in the world, telling the 12,000 year story of Scotland, came to the West of Scotland for the first time. It was also the first time it was able to be seen in its full glory. Why? Because joinery students from WCS made the stands which
Great Tapestry of Scotland, image by Roy McKeag allowed this magnificent work of art to be displayed at the Anchor Mill in Paisley – historical home of Scotland’s textile industry. This was a great community project, underpinned by West College Scotland.
Employability Hub, Dumbarton - in March, the College launched Scotland’s first dedicated job, benefits and training centre for young people. We opened the Employability Hub in Dumbarton town centre in collaboration with West Dunbartonshire Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Sports provision, Greenock - next term, for the first time, sports students will be able to study at our Greenock campuses. After the withdrawal of facilities at the SportScotland Centre in Largs, West College Scotland stepped in, which means Inverclyde students attending Ayrshire College will be able to pursue their studies locally.
CAP / The Fourth Way
Commonwealth Games – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for eighty students to work in the Athletes’ Village, exclusively providing Hair & Beauty services for sportsmen and women from around the world. But we’ve also trained 350 students in Door and Event Stewarding, providing them with the skills to meet the massive demand for security at Glasgow 2014, as well as future sporting events.
- set up only in October last year, CAP provides a daily fix for hundreds of College staff! So far, there have been 115,000 “hits” on its website and nearly 400 FAQs have been answered. CAP has also organised several Ask Audrey sessions, put up podcasts and – in a particularly daring innovation – recorded a Question Time-style broadcast with Audrey, Liz Connolly and David Alexander!
Looked-After Children - the College was awarded the Buttle UK Quality Mark for its work with and commitment to Looked-After Children and Care Leavers.
A Q&A with our chair WCS Chair Keith McKellar gets annoyed that colleges aren’t shown the same respect as the university sector. In March, the Scottish Government announced that Keith McKellar was to be the new Chair of West College Scotland. He’s also on the Board of Colleges Scotland. Keith knows the sector well, having been a member of the Board of Management at Stow College in Glasgow between 2010-2013 and Chair up until 2013, when Stow was merged into Glasgow Kelvin. He knows business well, too. He’s Chief Executive Officer of Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL) and a Director with NHS Research Scotland, which has a budget of £50 million and overall responsibility for clinical trial research in Scotland. Fusion caught up with Keith to get his thoughts about our first year and what the future holds for West College Scotland.
Fusion: Keith, you’ve had a bit of time now to get to know the College, what are your early impressions? Keith: My first impressions were good and have continued to be so the further into this role I get. I’ve been able now to visit all of the main campuses, and had the opportunity to meet some of the staff and students. I have been genuinely impressed by the progress made in the post-merger period. I’ve also been impressed by the obvious commitment I’ve seen from College staff.
Fusion: What are the challenges faced by the college sector and WCS in particular?
Keith: The post-regionalisation landscape is very different. This is a fact of life that we will now need to accept. WCS operates across five local authorities, this by definition increases the number of stakeholders and each area has its own challenges. It’s our job to grasp these challenges. I firmly believe that as a sector we need to speak with one clear voice, that our opinions are
sought in terms of future developments and ongoing funding of the sector. I think that some of this influence has been lost and needs to be rebuilt. I do get annoyed when I see our sector not being treated with the same respect as the university sector is, especially when we have a role to play in society that is every bit as important, perhaps even more so. I believe that we play a vital economic role in society and are a means for social mobility.
Fusion: Wearing your business hat, how important is it for the College to engage with business and other stakeholders? Keith: Put simply, I believe that it is critically important. I have just employed four new staff in project management and other technical and professional roles and whilst the candidate pool for these roles was very high, interestingly all who were appointed were all college sector-educated. To give our students the best chance, and to add the most to the economy, we need to make the step between education and employment as small as possible. Employers want employees who can step into a role and very quickly, pick up what they need to do and become valuable members of staff.
Fusion: Looking ahead, what are your ambitions for the future of the College? Where would you like us to be in, say, four years from now?
Keith: Four years from now, I still see us as being the third largest college but if I’m being honest, I would really like to see us being the best performing across the board in terms of student satisfaction and employability. If we look at the Wood Commission Report, we are already implementing many of the proposals and I think that there’s an opportunity for us to lead the way in this area. I also think that a great deal is down to attitude and creating opportunities. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, “if the apple won’t fall, shake the tree!” As Chair that means I
Keith McKellar have a responsibility to ensure that we have the resources to allow us to achieve all of this in order that we might become all that we can be.
Fusion: Finally, Keith, it’s been a momentous year for the College and its staff. What‘s your message to them as they go off on a well-deserved summer break?
Keith: I would say thank you for the effort and commitment that you have shown. This has not been an easy year. Change at this level inevitably breeds uncertainty but I sense that staff have handled this well and very professionally and importantly they have not lost sight of the students. Personally, I believe that there can be no greater compliment than to say that you have done your job with real conviction, that you have delivered the best that you can. That’s my impression in the short time that I’ve been here. So I would say, enjoy your holiday in the certain knowledge that you have achieved a great deal in this first, perhaps our most difficult year.