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Famous graduates urge Scots to Choose College

Some of Scotland’s most successful business people have urged more young Scots to consider college as their learning and training destination.

Over the past year alumni including globally-successful Glasgow businessman Lord Willie Haughey, disabilities advocate Dr Julie McElroy, and BBC Masterchef professionals winner Gary Maclean, have supported several campaigns highlighting the opportunities their college experience gave them.

And this month the Choose College campaign aims to persuade more students to follow in the footsteps of such successful graduates.

Lord Haughey famously said he is “one million per cent certain’ he would never have gone on to create his global business employing 14,000 people had it not been for his apprenticeship at Glasgow’s Springburn College (now part of Glasgow Kelvin College).

“The apprenticeship was fantastic. The teaching at the college was a wonderful experience. You got proper training at college while also working with ‘grown-ups’.

“When I got my City and Guilds Certificate someone told me that with that qualification and my driving licence I’d never be out or work. And that certainly was true.”

“Without the experience I got from my apprenticeship I could have ended up anywhere. But the discipline I received set me up for life.”

Lord Haughey has since gone on to support 1000s of other apprentices to encourage them to seek their own pathways to success via college and work partnerships.

For National Chef of Scotland, Gary Maclean the college experience has become a lifelong love affair.

Having studied in twilight classes at the former College of Food and Drink (now part of City of Glasgow College) Gary achieved his goal of become a chef, winning Young Chef of the Year along the way.

And after going to graduate from university Gary returned to City of Glasgow to become a lecturer.
And he insists that, leading his students to a massive haul of awards gave him the confidence to enter BBC’s Masterchef: The Professionals.

“I knew that, by working with my students and helping them win scores of awards, I had an award-winning repertoire of dishes in my own locker.”

But he said that his college experience was about much more than winning accolades.

“I learned so much. I found an incredible network of people around me. I met my wife in my very first class and I’ve friends to this day who I met in that same class, some of whom I’ve employed and some of whom employed me.

“College wasn’t just about the obvious learning, it provided so much more, particularly people skills. It also gave me the confidence to go on to graduate from university.”

Dr Julie McElroy has many awards to her name, including the Scottish Learning Partnership’s Adult Learner of the Year and Glasgow City Council’s Lord Provost Award. She has also earned a Duke of Edinburgh Diamond Award and was admitted to the College Development Network College Hall of Fame in 2020. And, after graduating from college Julie also went on to achieve a string of Higher Education awards culminating in her earning a PhD.

She said: “Glasgow Clyde College was immensely supportive of me with fantastic lecturers who not only saw potential but who were passionate about helping me achieve that potential.

“College was about so much more than just the learning in the class. It provided confidence and resilience and really prepared me for the world of work. The support network I had was exceptional.

“I certainly would have no hesitation in recommending college to anyone. It was a fabulous experience for me.”

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland said: “The incredible success of Lord Haughey, Gary Maclean and Dr Julie McElroy shows just how life-changing and inclusive colleges can be in so many different ways.

“I’m delighted they credit their college experiences with playing a significant role in their extraordinary careers since “

Jim Metcalfe, Chief Executive of College Development Network (CDN) said:

“It’s fantastic to hear the compelling stories of Lord Haughey, Gary Maclean and Dr Julie McElroy, which demonstrate the transformative power of choosing college.

“The college sector is the largest training and skills provider in Scotland. Recent research shows that 95% of college graduates move onto a job or higher learning. Wherever you are, whoever you are, you’ll find a local college ready to unlock your potential.”

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