Vital Ayrshire College course adapts to succeed for students

Vital Ayrshire College course adapts to succeed for students

Ayrshire College’s Project SEARCH programme that runs from Culzean Castle & Country Park, in partnership with National Trust Scotland and Girvan Youth Trust, has come to an end for the latest group of participants.

Project SEARCH is for anyone aged 17-29 in South Ayrshire who feels they have a barrier to learning. The programme provides students with the confidence to enter the world of work through a series of live placements at the Culzean Castle site. The students are mentored along the way, receiving support and helpful feedback from job coaches and Ayrshire College’s Employability and Engagement Officer.

This year’s programme has been unlike any other, with Covid-19 restrictions still posing a challenge for organisers. Students normally experience three placements across a range of areas including gardening, retail, catering and housekeeping. With fewer services open to the public at Culzean Castle and fewer staff on site at the start of the programme, the Project SEARCH team had to get their thinking caps on and re-evaluate how they would succeed this year.

They decided to take the lead on projects that would make a real difference around the site. They created a path around the Fire Pond at the rear of the deer park that had previously been inaccessible to the public. The students also worked on restoration projects around the gas house, removing overgrowing vegetation and clearing gutters.

These self-led projects allowed staff at Culzean to focus on other priorities and gave the students an immense sense of achievement and tested their teamwork and problem solving skills.

It’s been a different experience at Culzean Castle & Country Park this year but the students on the course said they have loved every minute of the 2021 Project SEARCH, and are looking forward to celebrating together at their graduation ceremony on Friday 22 October.

Jenny Graham said: "I've really enjoyed working with the rangers. It's helped to build a good sense of direction and the highlight of the programme has been able to spend so much time outside."

Russell McEwan said: "Project SEARCH has helped improve my communication as I've been speaking to so many new people. I've loved working in the cafe."

Mark MacMillan, Employability and Engagement Officer at Ayrshire College, said: “Our staff recognise that there has been a huge effort from our interns this year, especially in light of the gloomy outlook around the country during these uncertain times.

“Their work ethics have been incredible throughout the course and we think they should be very proud of themselves for what they have achieved. They have so much to take away from the experience, especially in how well they came together to work as a team.

“Now we look forward to recruiting for the next programme, due to start in February 2022. Culzean Castle & Country Park is slowly and carefully opening back up to near normality, with our students returning to roles in the café and castle which had previously been impossible under Covid restrictions. It’s looking positive for next year that our intake of interns will be back to the usual programme we enjoyed pre-pandemic.

“If you think you might be right for the programme or would just like to find out more about it, you can get in touch on 01655 884518 or visit the Ayrshire College website.”

13 October 2021

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