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This careers week, Jackie Galbraith, Principal at West Lothian College shares how the many partners WLC works with empowers individuals to shape their future careers.

Autumn is graduation season for colleges, a celebration of tens of thousands of graduates who completed higher education qualifications that they are now using to shape their future through continued education, apprenticeships or work.

Of our thousand graduates, nearly all who completed HND (Higher National Diploma) Software Development, including some who started college on foundation apprenticeships while they were still at school, went straight into third year of degree study at university. Others secured graduate apprenticeships with companies like IBM and Forrit.

All HNC (Higher National Certificate) Healthcare graduates are now at universities across Scotland studying nursing, paramedic science or midwifery degrees.

These two examples show how college graduates are shaping the future of critical sectors like tech and healthcare. They tell a very positive story, especially when we look at some of the individuals behind the statistics.

Twenty-year-old Tori-Leigh was an HNC Business graduate at West Lothian College this year. In the previous three years, she achieved the highest level of vehicle repair qualifications. On top of her studies last year, she won a range of national industry awards, set up her own car repair business and, anticipating that she may employ people in the future, is now undertaking a part-time management qualification at evening class.

After years away from education, Mohamed completed HNC Electrical Engineering to improve his prospects in life and work. With the support of lecturers and other staff, he overcame many setbacks on the path to achieving his qualification and secured a graduate engineering apprenticeship with SSE.

Carol graduated with HND Childhood Practice after starting on a further education course three years ago. As an autistic young person, she overcame academic and personal challenges to achieve her qualifications. As part of her HND, Carol went on placement to a local play group where, such was the impression she made on the children and staff she supported, the manager offered her a job on completion of her qualification.

Our students benefit from the many ways we help them make decisions about their future careers, for example through work placements, talks and masterclasses from business leaders, and specific industry sector conferences and employment fairs.

We also play an important role in raising awareness amongst school pupils of the wide range of careers available in different industry sectors.

One of hundreds of examples at West Lothian College is the Developing Winchburgh Schools Partnership, a 16-week programme led by the college, Winchburgh Developments and Winchburgh Academy, through which 57 first-year school pupils got involved in the development of the Winchburgh village. Pupils engaged with college lecturers, professional consultants, construction firms, house builders and utility suppliers and gained a detailed insight into the work that goes into placemaking. The project is running again this year, benefitting even more pupils.

In the summer, Skills Development Scotland relocated its West Lothian Careers Advisers team to the college, which they say has presented real opportunities to work more closely with young people and adults in the local area. During this Careers Week, the SDS team is launching weekly employability drop-in sessions in the college’s partnership hub, the Compass Point.

In the Compass Point, organisational boundaries are increasingly porous and partners become one in support of young people who need significant help towards a positive future.

One of these young people appeared at court recently. He is attending college and accepting help through our specialist trauma-informed TRUST team. His social work report described his progress as excellent, highlighting that he was making real efforts to address his struggling mental health and addiction.

The judge told him he looked well and was a ‘poster boy’ for what can be achieved. A local business owner who was listening to the court proceedings has offered this young person a start in work. While he knows it won’t be easy, he wants to help this young man shape a better future for himself.

Colleges, along with the many partners we work with, empower individuals to shape their future through education and skills that lead to them having better lives and jobs.