#MyAyrshire by Fraser Lennox
Fraser is the Team leader for Community courses at Ayrshire College. He’s been working here for 5 years after having retired from the police service.
Three things I love about my job
- My fantastic team of community learning facilitators (CLFs) and support staff who are dedicated to their job and always deliver more than they are asked.
- The difference our team make to people’s lives by building up their confidence and helping them on their road to employment. I have witnessed phenomenal changes in our students between the time they start with us and when they move on. I remember being blown away at a recent awards ceremony; once the students had their certificate in their hands, they were visibly different, beaming from ear to ear and walking taller. It fills me with enormous pride.
- Our interaction with partners in the community. Colleagues in Jobcentre Plus, local authorities, hospitals, employment organisations, South Ayrshire Council and so on. I enjoy creating bespoke courses to help their service users to get their lives back on track and this is so satisfying.
What motivates you?
Helping people to change their lives through education. We meet people from all walks of life who need our help for a variety of reasons. Some have extremely chaotic lifestyles and may turn up with no intention of applying for a job. They find they enjoy the social side of the course and decide to stay and do another course, inevitably they find that they are proud of the new skills they have learned and the new confidence they feel, and often they are able to move on to employment. A good example of this is the Drug and Alcohol Partnership course we run with South Ayrshire Council. They come to us for two days a week which is a big commitment. It provides structure in their life and a new focus. We offer two x six month employability courses which helps them prepare for the workplace. We have had great success getting people into jobs – well paid jobs too!
Testimonials like this one from Stuart are very motivating: “It is helping me remember how to learn again! I have learnt new skills including IT and I have found a new groups of friends with a shared background to help support each other. The class has motivated me to get up and make changes to my life. “
How do you inspire your team?
I work with a team of very experienced and skilled people who do their job well – they are the experts in their field. I consult with them and get them on board and encourage them to take ownership of their course, and my role is to provide support, guidance and help with the administration that surrounds running our courses, so they can concentrate on their course delivery. We have a very open, honest and trustworthy relationship and I always try to show my appreciation when I can.
What’s your three priorities just now?
Last year we smashed all our credit targets and were on track to knock it out of the park again this year. Lockdown has transformed the community learning landscape because not only did our community learning facilitators not have access to ICT, but our students either didn’t have access or were unable to engage online. Unfortunately many courses had to be cancelled or postponed. In more recent months local community centres were still not able to open so we could not engage with many of our clients. There has been some capacity available in the College, however very often our students feel intimidated by the size of our campus and don’t feel confident enough to come here, so it’s not a satisfactory solution.
Ideally if we could have permanent rooms in towns’ across Ayrshire that we could have access to, five days a week, then I could schedule a wider variety of courses, and partners could more easily refer their clients along to these. That would be my ideal situation!
What are your proudest achievements?
The ability to adapt and change our courses to suit our partner’s needs. Here are two examples of courses we are most proud of:
The Me2U course, which is a unique collaborative project providing people who have been long-term unemployed with an opportunity to gain SQA qualifications, while carrying out voluntary work placement over a 9 week period within a school setting. This can be in areas such as kitchens, classrooms, IT support, janitorial and cleaning. It’s an innovative blend of work placement activity and college study that is complemented and supported by delivering employability units in such a way that is supportive, with a positive outcome for the individual. We have had great success getting people into jobs and now East Ayrshire Council has expanded this to include all secondary schools.
Here’s one of the first students Malcolm Balmer thoughts on this community course, “I feel so much better, life is looking up. I have a challenge which is great. I had thought I would never work again. Now I’m back at work and feeling useful again. My full family has benefited, my mood and general wellbeing has lifted, and I am enjoying having something fulfilling to do. I have more energy, I am so much happier than I was when I was stuck at home. I thought I had no prospects. I am looking forward to being better off and being able to have days out and treat my family. I think it is good for my children to see me working.”
WG13 - coffee shops in Kilmarnock where young people who have barriers to learning have an opportunity to work here one day a week for six months to gain hospitality skills. Tommy McMillan one of our CLFs mentors the students and helps to prepare them for employment.
This is Loren Gemmell, a Supported Learning Student who worked at WG13 as well as work placements with the College marketing team and the Student Association. Loren won the NUS Scotland Student of the Year Award 2018. The judges were impressed with how her independence had dramatically grown both academically and socially and how her confidence and determination to be the best she can, shines through in all that she does. Loren is now working at the coffee shop in Dean Park.
How has the pandemic affected your team/students?
My team have been unable to engage with their students because of issues with ICT resources and skills. Our courses are designed to work most effectively face to face, in the community, where students feel in their comfort zone and online delivery just does not work for them.
My team have used this time to develop their digital skills and this investment in CPD has been very beneficial.
I continue to build relationships with partners and organise new courses to meet their needs. Health and Wellbeing unsurprisingly has been a popular request. We have created courses to help people learn to lead healthier lives and cope with anxiety. I can’t think of a better way to end this blog than listening to Alison who has been on a recent course and she explains what a difference it has made to her life this year. Her joy of learning and her hope for the future embodies all that we have hoped to achieve with our students.