Graduation – a new dawn, a new day, a new life

I started as principal of West Lothian College in August this year.  On Saturday 27 October, I was very privileged and and felt very proud to join 230 graduating students and nearly 700 of their guests celebrate their success at our Graduation Ceremony.

Graduation is one of the most special days in the college year. A day devoted to recognising the tremendous achievements of our students and reflecting on what contributed to their success.

At West Lothian College, we want to inspire everyone who comes to college to reach their full potential. And one of the best ways to inspire others is through celebrating the success of our students. You are our best ambassadors. Your success inspires others in your families, the communities you live in, and the companies you work in.

We’re ambitious for all our students and every day we all work hard to help them progress on to good jobs, apprenticeships or university. I was delighted to read the Scottish Funding Council’s College Leaver Destinations 2016-17 report which shows that our students have the highest rate of positive destinations (97.3%) when they leave college of all other college regions outside of Glasgow, and the lowest rate of negative destinations (1.8%) of all regions.

Giving our students access to opportunities to enhance their learning is a contributory factor in achieving such high positive destinations. For example, last year more than a hundred students went abroad for work placements through a number of international projects.

One of our business students, Katelyn Livingston, won a scholarship to study the second year of her HND Business Management at a college in America. When she returns next year she will study the third year of BA Business at the college and complete the final year of the degree at Napier University.

And this year, some of our HNC Mechanical Engineering students took part in a multi award-winning Malaysian project with Mitsubishi. Being involved in experiences like this builds the confidence, skills and ambitions of students.

Central to our students completing their qualifications successfully are those who support you over the year – family, friends and fellow students.  Also fundamental to your success are the lecturers and all the other college staff who support you throughout your studies.

But the main contributor to your success is YOU.

You did the hard work to achieve your qualification. You managed their way through any difficulties you faced over the year. You kept going even when it was tough. And, having shown that determination, you should be confident in your ability to succeed in whatever next step you’ve chosen.

These days we’re told that graduates are likely to have many career changes throughout your life. That might sound a bit scary but there are things you can do to cope with those changes.

Stay interested in whatever you do, keep learning and don’t be afraid of change. This will help you get the most out of your career in the fast-moving world that we live in. Change will happen, and it’s better to learn to adapt to change and embrace it.

Build your networks. Connect with experts on platforms like LinkedIn, a great way to keep up-to-date with new developments, seek advice and get yourself noticed for that dream job you’re looking for.

Develop resilience and grit. Sometimes in life and work things go wrong – a bad boss, a poor career choice, a problem at work, a family crisis, ill health – physical or mental. Invest time in keeping yourself mentally strong, as this will help you cope with any challenges you face so that you come out of these situations stronger.

Finally, in whatever you do in life, be kind, be fair and treat people the way you want to be treated yourself. That way, you will be a better student, a better employee, a better manager, a better person.

Well done to all of you!

You’ve joined an exclusive club of people in West Lothian – that third of the population with higher education qualifications. Qualifications that are relevant to and sought after by employers in West Lothian and beyond.

Please keep in touch with the college. We would love to hear how you are getting on in whatever you’re doing now. And welcome you back to share your experiences with other students!

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