After co-authoring a new blueprint for upskilling and reskilling Scotland’s workforce – the Cumberford-Little report – City of Glasgow College Principal Paul Little writes on his ambition to equip all students with the necessary skills to prosper in Scotland’s post-pandemic economic climate


THIS horrible pandemic is the biggest challenge we have faced collectively in our lifetime and now there is relief on the horizon. We have pulled together during each lockdown and the unprecedented vaccination programme is currently driving down viral infection rates and deaths. 

Covid-19 has already inflicted enormous personal tragedies and vast economic costs, and at our peril we ignore the likelihood of further cumulative misery from future high levels of unemployment, business failures, and blighted life chances. 
Scotland is well placed to confront these challenges head on. Our people are resilient. Our institutions are experienced. 

As we begin to reopen the economy, the three waves of this crisis will see us move from focusing on saving lives, to saving livelihoods and then to saving life chances. So the recovery must be skills-led. 

There is a real danger of the pandemic exacerbating the structural inequalities that already affect our disadvantaged communities, and, without effective and speedy interventions, the societal, economic and individual repercussions of Covid-19 could last a decade or a lifetime. 

The commentariat is already using the terms: the Covid generation or generation C.  City of Glasgow College – as Scotland’s “Super College” – remains ready at the forefront of this skills-led recovery, helping individuals and economic sectors in Glasgow City region, and across Scotland, first to safeguard livelihoods in the short to medium term and then enable individuals and businesses, particularly SMEs, to thrive longer term. 

We will help employers and employees alike rapidly reskill and upskill through a specifically designed portfolio of agile, industry-relevant, micro-credential programmes. Since the very start of the pandemic, we have been working ever more closely with businesses in Glasgow and beyond, and with those sectors in the city centre which have been hit the hardest, such as hospitality, retail, and tourism. 

We have been helping them find practical solutions for their revival, and during the pandemic we have delivered skills training to more than 4,500 people through the Flexible Workforce Development Fund.
Before we were all catapulted into this health crisis exactly a year ago, the prescient Cumberford-Little report was just published. 
It is the blueprint for upskilling and reskilling which is needed now more than ever, and it is essential the Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding

Council redouble their efforts to ensure that we finally establish one tertiary education and skills system that operates with agility, and on a collaborative and inclusive basis. 

We know now more than ever that colleges thrive within a system and not a hierarchy.  

At City of Glasgow College, we’re delivering world-class lifetime learning, training and high-quality business support which the pandemic has made more essential than ever. 

This vital symbiotic relationship between our college and employers is the cornerstone of how we ensure effective partnership working amidst a multiplicity of roles. More than ever, we are highly valued civic and economic anchors for our communities, powerhouses of higher technical and professional excellence, and unique transilience multipliers, delivering breakthrough change, rather than evolutionary or even transformational change.  

Colleges are ready to help businesses navigate a future that is very different from the past. Indeed, some would wryly say the future isn’t what it used to be. 
This pandemic has acted as an accelerator, with the pace of change now exponential rather than rapid. 

For example, this November, Glasgow will bring to the eyes of the world the urgency of tackling the climate crisis as it hosts the United Nations climate emergency summit. COP26 represents a terrific opportunity for us to exhibit our pioneering work on green skills to support businesses and employees through a “just transition” to a net-zero economy. Similarly, the pandemic has thrown us headlong into a digital future where there is no going back. 

Few of us had heard of Zoom before last March, yet now we’re all old hands. 
Along with this focus on digital, colleges will also deliver the green, meta, and future skills agendas to drive the socio-economic revival of Scotland.

And at City – as outlined by a recent Fraser of Allander Institute report – we do this with a £6 billion impact to the Scottish economy. We have even more to give in saving livelihoods and life chances. 

No business should consider itself alone. Colleges are here to help, right now. n


Former college student is now a star in the kitchen 

CITY of Glasgow College recently celebrated the news that Glasgow had won its first Michelin star for almost two decades.

Former professional cookery student at the college, Sam Bell McLaughlan, is now a respected chef at the Michelin starred Cail Bruich.


Sam joined the restaurant last January and explained that it’s different from working in other restaurants.

“You get to work with amazing produce and with elite chefs in the industry. 

“Standards are really high, you can’t let anything slip and attention to every detail is really important.

“You need to perform your very best every day. 

“Everything going out of the kitchen needs to meet the high standards every time. 

“It is really pressured and hard work. But, it is also great fun, exciting and very rewarding.”

Sam’s foot into the industry following college was through a work placement after which he secured a part time job as Commis Chef. 

The courses he did at college gave him a foundation on which to develop his knowledge and skills.

“I learned from the chef lecturers what it took to work in industry as they shared their experiences with us,” he said:

“It’s also important to get as much work experience as you can when you’re still at college to help boost your employability.

“It was my lecturers who helped me get my first placement because they know people in the industry.”

Lorna McNee, the Head Chef at Cail Bruich, is Sam’s inspiration. “She is a great mentor to work under and I have learned so much from her and the chef team. Lorna shows what hard work, dedication and sacrifice can lead to in your career.”

From starting at NC level in professional cookery at college, to graduating with an HND, to working as a chef in a Michelin starred restaurant, Sam has come a long way in a short time in the job he loves.

“Starting out, I dreamt of working in a Michelin restaurant. So I am very proud to be part of the team that brought the Michelin star back to Glasgow.”


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

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