By working closely with more than 50 industry partners, South Lanarkshire College is building brand new pathways towards full-time jobs and apprenticeships in trades ranging from construction to plumbing, says Andrew Collier.

OF ALL the links Scotland’s further education institutions build, probably the most important are those created with industry. Strong relationships with employers are key to helping students build successful career pathways.

South Lanarkshire College has scored real success in this area. This is particularly true of its highly regarded Faculty of Construction, which has effectively forged a recruitment hub with local businesses. All those involved work together to provide rewarding and meaningful industrial placements that often lead on to full time jobs. It’s a situation in which everyone benefits.

“The college has a very rich history of working closely with industry,” says David McLaren, Interim Associate Principal in its construction faculty.

“We prepare the students for employment, providing them with the attributes they need to go out into the workplace to be successful.

“We only work with companies that have a great reputation – we tie up with them and then send our students out to them. The students may have a pre-interview before placement making sure that each is a good fit for the other and that everyone is engaging in joined-up thinking.”

The aim, he adds, is to ensure that the students get the best experience possible. “It’s really only the best businesses that we engage with, as they are the ones that see the value and the merit in the process of supporting their future talent pipeline.”

The main aim is to make sure that those going into the workplace eventually win full-time employment from the exercise. “We are trying to act as part of a skills pipeline, so we don’t normally send them out unless there’s an opportunity in it,” David adds.

“Of course, that’s contingent on how well they do and the jobs market at the time, but there does have to be a need from the employer in the first instance.

“Though the experiences they gain will be good ones, we don’t want to send our students out on placements for jobs that don’t exist. They are at the centre of everything we do.”

The faculty operates its placements in two ways: it can either build them directly into qualifications, or they can be provided through Skills Development Scotland’s Employability Fund. Generally they last up to six weeks.

Currently, there is a great skills shortage across the construction industry in Scotland – and South Lanarkshire College’s focus is concentrated on students attaining the necessary skillsets to get real jobs in the sector at the end of their courses.

To maintain close links with the construction industry, the college operates a large-scale networking system that allows the faculty to reach out to more than 50 organisations. The college can then create bespoke courses concentrating on the required skillsets that industry needs – starting with a pre-foundation apprenticeship programme that allows the students to pick up dexterity and knowledge and then progress further.

Employers may well require an apprentice between the ages of 16 and 24, and the college will then pick out students who have the correct attributes of attitude, as well as good attendance and ability, then put them forward for the programme.

One of the great advantages to this placement route is that it comes at no cost to the employer. In the past, uptake of apprenticeships was very poor because it was a huge investment by the company concerned – but the new route also comes at no cost to the student as it’s part of the education process.

A wealth of knowledge is gained by the student and it gives them a route to get into plumbing, gas and other industries.

The placement route has now expanded at South Lanarkshire College and has spread further across other trades into areas such as hospitality and administration.

A relationship the faculty particularly prizes is the one it has forged with the Thornliebank-based all trades supply company C Hanlon Facilities Management Ltd – who are specialists in plumbing, heating, gas installations, bathroom adaptations electrical, roofing, building, drainage pest control and insurance (IFFR).

Graham Collins is a former South Lanarkshire College student and is now a Supervisor and Quality Assurance Engineer at the company. He describes the placement scheme as a “link between wilderness and employment.” He continues: “You come into college to get a qualification but that doesn’t necessarily mean you walk into a job or have the experience to go out on your own. The placement programme meant that the college went on a journey with me.”

Graham believes that much of the success of the scheme is down to communication: “The college said that if there were any issues or if you needed any help, they were always there for you. The placement created a kind of bridge structure between college and employer. It brought the two together. All in all, it’s been fantastic for my career.”

His colleague at C Hanlon, Chris Peden, is also an evangelist for this approach. As Gas Divisional Manager, he is responsible for bringing placement students into the company.

“It’s something we’ve done more than 100 times now, so we’re well versed in it,” he says. “We are a group company with nine different business sectors and it’s been a very helpful way of helping us to move forward.”

He takes Graham Collins as an example of the placement programme’s success. “It helped him be physically moulded into a highly experienced technical engineer, increasing his learning and experience as he progressed. Graham now has responsibility for 10 people, making sure that they are delivering for the client and working safely to industry standards and practices. It’s been brilliant to see.”

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Commentary 

By Deborah Brown, 
Legal Services lecturer, 
South Lanarkshire College

Close industry bonds help prepare students for world of work

AS a college we work closely with industry, establishing and nurturing relationships across many different sectors.

We understand that forging successful industry relationships plays a key role in future career prospects for South Lanarkshire College students. Through these relationships we can offer insight and opportunities for our students whether that be enabling our students to enter dialogue with guest speakers or simply improving their awareness of the local job market.

Within our HN Legal programme we work closely with different organisations as well as firms within the legal industry. Working and consulting with firms, we ensure that our students are equipped with the relevant practical skills required to work within, for example, a busy legal office.

Some students on our HN Legal programme have expressed a keen interest in entering industry directly upon achieving HND Legal Services as opposed to continuing onto university.  Additionally, they expressed an interest in ultimately becoming Paralegals by working in the sector and continuing to achieve industry specific qualifications such as professional development awards (PDAs).

HeraldScotland:

We are working with The Scottish Paralegal Society to inform and encourage students and to support and facilitate this transition. In terms of course content we already offer specific practical courses on our HND Legal Studies curriculum including Domestic Conveyancing, Private Client and Sheriff Court Civil Procedure. The practical skills learned ensure that our students are industry ready.

We are actively encouraging these students who do intend to enter the workplace to look at the prospect of becoming paralegals and moreover Law Society accredited paralegals in the long-term so that they can continue their professional development within the legal sector, whilst working.

To this end, we are liaising with Sandra Reid, President of The Scottish Paralegal Association, with a view to developing PDA courses relevant to those leavers going directly into industry.

This will enable them to achieve qualifications which can lead to paralegal status.

We are also developing PDA’s suitable for any legal firm who feels their staff may benefit.

This article appears as part of The Herald's The Future Of Education campaign, in association with South Lanarkshire College.

If you would like to become a partner in our Future of Education Series, contact Stephen McDevitt, Head of Digital and Branded Content campaign@heraldandtimes.co.uk