On 14 March I welcomed 42 guests – including 30 businesses from the private sector as well as national and local stakeholders – to our award-winning Terrace training restaurant to talk about how we can make a difference together.
I started as principal of West Lothian College seven months ago.
Since then, I’ve spent time getting to know staff and students, getting out to West Lothian’s towns and communities, meeting national and local stakeholders, and visiting employers. The dinner was a great opportunity to bring together some of the key influencers in the West Lothian’s business community.
Our vision at West Lothian College is straightforward – we want to help deliver a highly skilled and enterprising workforce. We have big ambitions for the college and believe we can play a vital role in helping people, businesses and communities across West Lothian to be successful.
These are exciting times for West Lothian.
A growing population, growing employment, major developments started in Winchburgh, and new possibilities coming through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Deal. The college wants to ensure that people have the skills to get the most out of these possibilities. Building on a long history and solid foundations, we are confident we can do that.
Over 8,000 people take part in education and training with the college each year, two thirds on a part time basis. We support hundreds of modern and foundation apprentices, and deliver over 1,000 SVQs (Scottish Vocational Qualifications) in workplaces across Scotland. This year, around 1,800 employees in companies across West Lothian will benefit from training courses through the Flexible Workforce Development Fund. We deliver the third year of Napier University’s business degree at our campus – so far to 300 students over 10 years.
With a growing population and potential for growth in the economy, we want to do more for employers which, of course, will ultimately benefit our students. We need to know what that more looks like – is it more apprenticeships, more short courses, more support for generic skills like management and digital?
We want to make sure that everyone who studies at the college leaves with the skills and qualifications employers recognise and need, so that they can secure jobs that make the most of their talents. To achieve that we need to know more about employers, what skills they need now and what they’re likely to need in the future. Knowing this will help us to ensure that our courses and qualifications reflect industry requirements.
We’re keen to adopt new and more flexible ways of working to fit around employer expectations, so that training is delivered at a place and a pace that suits their needs – whether that’s full or part time courses, apprenticeships, at the college or in the workplace.
Although finances are tight in the college sector, we’re committed to keeping our facilities up to date and relevant so that they are close to what students will experience in the workplace. We’ve made good progress this year. For example, we have set up a simulated hospital ward for nursing and care students, we’ve just bought a hybrid vehicle and safety testing system for students working in the automotive industry, and in August we will launch a new centre for cyber security.
The dinner on 14 March was about recognising the excellent partnerships we have with hundreds of companies in West Lothian. It was also about establishing new relationships. Some of our guests didn’t already work with the college. By the end of the evening I know that everyone was keen to do so.
Award winning students make for an award winning restaurant
On the same day as the dinner, four of our students came top in their categories at the Scottish Culinary Awards in Glasgow – beating students in other colleges, and experienced chefs in the Sheraton Hotel, the RAF, the Royal Navy and Sodexo!
The students who prepared and served the food at the dinner are on a range of courses at the college including Professional Cookery and Hospitality. Events like this contribute to their learning experience and provide evidence for their course assessments. They help our students develop skills that are relevant to the sectors they aim to work in – and their skills speak for themselves!
The college’s training restaurant has received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor five years in a row – making it West Lothian’s most highly rated restaurant on TripAdvisor. We’ve even been awarded a TripAdvisor Hall of Fame Certificate for these five consecutive years of high ratings from our customers – an outstanding endorsement of the high quality of our students and staff!
Welcoming to all | Students at the centre | Always striving for better