The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Students at Cumnock Community College try the trades

By: Our Further Education Correspondent

A PROGRAMME offered by Ayr College to help disengaged young people into education and employment appears to be making a significant impact on the number of Jobseeker Allowance claims made by young people in the area.

Latest figures show that the number of claims in East Ayrshire, where Ayr College has been running a programme of courses tailored to young people in need of ‘more choices and chances’, have fallen by 55.7% compared to the same period last year. East Ayrshire was highlighted by the Scottish Government in 2006 as a ‘hotspot’ for disengaged young people, with 16.4% of those between the ages of 16 and 19 not in education, employment or training.

Since then, Ayr College (in partnership with Kilmarnock College) has opened Cumnock Community College, which is offering a number of training opportunities that were previously unavailable to the local community. In particular, the College’s unique ‘Try the Trades’ course, which is now in its second year, had a 100% success rate in its first year of running, with all graduates moving onto further education or employment.

Scott Dickson, 18, from Netherford, graduated Try the Trades last year, and is now working for local joiner James Wilson as a joinery Apprentice. He said: “Try the Trades was a great course – I really enjoyed it and the teachers were all really supportive. It helped me work out that I really enjoy joinery, and now that I’m working on my Apprenticeship I’m loving it. If Cumnock Community College wasn’t there I’m not sure where I would go – it would have been much harder to figure out what to do after school.”

‘Try the Trades’, which is the only course of its kind in the country, offers young people the chance to build their own ‘mini-homes’, therefore sampling the full range of trades before committing to studying one specialist area. By building a complete home, rather than a sample of construction which is then knocked down as in standard trades courses, students’ sense of achievement grows as their building does.

This year, the College has added further courses in Care and Plumbing and Electric, which are proving to be just as successful, and next academic year, students will also be able to study courses in Hospitality and Retail.

Ayr College youth development co-ordinator Lee Chesterman said: “Since launching Cumnock Community College, we have been able to offer young people in the area targeted courses with real job prospects upon graduation. I have no doubt that the drop in benefit claims is directly linked to the greater range of opportunities we are now offering. We have a great relationship with Job Centre Plus and every year we are building better and better relationships directly with employers, to the extent that they are now coming to me looking for employees.

“My only frustration is that, because our sums are capped, we’re only able to offer these opportunities to a limited number of young people. In its first year, the College interviewed 75 young people for 16 available places on the course and this academic year, there were over 150 year applicants for 32 available places. We are expanding the range of courses available, but it would great to be able to expand this even more to truly meet local demand.”

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