SQA Star Awards for Edinburgh College

Posted on 14/11/2013 by


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Edinburgh College has won two prestigious prizes at a national education awards ceremony, recognising its strong links with industry and outstanding achievements in innovation.

At the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) Star Awards last night, the East Lothian Hospitality and Tourism Academy – a partnership between Edinburgh College, Queen Margaret University and East Lothian Council – won a Highly Commended Award in the Partnership category. The college also won a Highly Commended Award in the Innovation category for a scheme providing industry mentors for students.

The annual SQA Star Awards honour inspirational achievements and commitment from colleges, schools and training organisations across the country.

The East Lothian Hospitality & Tourism Academy caught the judges’ attention because of its close links with industry partners and the benefits these relationships can bring to young people. The academy has benefited from vital support from large hotel groups such as Marriott, Jurys Inn, Novotel, Mercure and Macdonald hotels and resorts, as well as Edinburgh’s own luxury hotel Prestonfield and the Royal Mile’s Fraser Suites.

The initiative, which is now in its second year, exposes young people to the wealth of jobs in hospitality and tourism industries by giving 16-18 year olds the chance to train at college, university and in industry. The success of its first year attracted government funding of £4.6m, which has seen the initiative expand  to many more schools across Edinburgh and East and Midlothian, and the Scottish Borders and include other areas such as health and social care and creative industries. Queen Margaret University and Edinburgh College are partners in all the new academies.

Ray McCowan, vice principal at Edinburgh College, said: “We are thrilled to have been recognised by the SQA Star Awards. The academy is a pioneering project and has been a great success.

“The academy represents partnership working at its very best. It brings together the vision of two educational organisations and a local council, as well as harnessing industry expertise. The college realises the vital importance of strong links with industry and it’s partnerships like these that give our students the vital experience and skills to succeed in a highly competitive industry.”

In its first year, 30 out of 34 students successfully completed the academy. Of the 30 successful students, 18 continued to study the HNC in sixth year, four moved to Edinburgh College to study the SVQ2 in Professional Cookery and eight took up employment in the industry. There are now 163 students across all of the academies in Edinburgh and the Lothians in the fields of creative industries, health and social care, cookery and food science and nutrition, with a new academy planned for engineering.

The college has a number of successful graduates within the field of hospitality and tourism, including James Thomson OBE, owner of Prestonfield House.

Image 2 SQA Star Awards - Partnership - Edinburgh College2Celebrating Edinburgh College’s other honour, Visual Communication lecturer Helena Good said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won the Highly Commended Award at the SQA Star Awards. Our mentoring programme was established to develop a strong working relationship between our students and industry and it’s brilliant that it has been recognised in this way.

“Before the mentoring programme was introduced, the first contact that students had with industry wasn’t until their end-of-year exhibitions. Now we are introducing our students to the key players in leading design agencies from an early stage. This gives them an invaluable experience in working with professionals throughout their course and an insight into how the industry works.”

Helena added: “Since the mentoring programme began, we have won more than a dozen national and international awards including the Scottish Marketing Student of the Year for a second year in a row and four D&AD (Design and Art Direction) nominations, the creative industry’s flagship awards. One of our student’s work was also commissioned by the music brand Goji and is now being sold on high streets across the UK.

“As the initiative gains success, it has attracted more interest from industry. Our work placement programme has become much easier to manage because so many of our recent graduates have secured good agency positions and are a testament to the employability of the students we produce.”

SQA chief executive, Dr Janet Brown, said: “Once again I have been overwhelmed by the quality our finalists’ achievements. Some have overcome challenging personal circumstances and defied expectations while others have shown incredible initiative and commitment to succeed in their chosen disciplines.

“More than ever, qualifications are an essential component of an individual’s successful progress from education and training into further study and employment. Our Star Awards ceremony is an opportunity to congratulate learners on their achievements but also acknowledge the fantastic work of our centres – schools, colleges, training providers and employers who deliver our qualifications – and the people who give learners the guidance and encouragement they need to realise their potential.”

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