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Summer Series Blog - Jenifer Johnston

Jenifer Johnston

Welcome to the final blog of the Summer Series, where thinkers and experts give their views on colleges in Scotland and on what the future may hold. The views expressed are the views of the author. Jenifer Johnston, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, Colleges Scotland. Enjoy the last blog.

There’s a lovely young woman who works in my local shop, and we often pass the time of day over the counter. She’s been finishing school this year, and there have been textbooks and notes spread out next to the register as she studied before the summer. I was delighted to hear about her exam success and high-fived her when she said she’s about to start an engineering course at college. We’ve talked about buses and trains to get there, where is good for lunch, and her nervous enthusiasm at starting something new is now replaced after just a week with a new, small, confidence – at 17, she has morphed from a pupil into a student, a lot of firsts, a lot of new, a lot of change, a lot of stepping into the unknown.

But what she’s been met with at college – kindness, the outline of a learning journey, already promises of work placements, and clearly drawn line between gaining a qualification and a strong career path – is why many of us work in this sector. Colleges in Scotland train digital specialists, builders, photographers, chefs, mechanics, healthcare workers, artists, journalists, and childminders. Colleges are the engine room of Scotland’s economy. It’s troubling that colleges are underfunded. Colleges are a part of Scottish society that should command more media coverage, political scrutiny and public debate. And only very recently, with the publication of the Withers report, has it seemed like there is a strong and defined place for colleges in a future Scotland. We will all know it quickly and acutely if Scotland doesn’t have the properly trained and qualified plumbers or hairdressers or ELC staff, so it’s good to see this report with all its recommendations.

Our Chief Executive launched the Summer Blog Series by reinforcing the key role that colleges play for individuals, for our communities and for the economy. It has been a pleasure to explore some of these issues over the summer in the series. John Edward from Scottish Council on Global Affairs writes for us about the international potential of Scottish colleges. Jamie Kinlochan and student Jamie Quinn give their personal reflections on what college means to them. Alison Payne from Reform Scotland and Dr Liz Cameron from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce discuss the economy and the need for future skills planning. And commentator Andy Maciver unpacks where he sees colleges ‘in the mix’ – “colleges can be a social, community hub in a way that universities cannot. They provide an opportunity for communities - charities, small businesses and so on - to come together for the greater good.”

Back to my friend in the shop. I’m confident she will succeed, and that Scotland will have a great young female engineer in her, that her investment of time and energy into absorbing knowledge and learning new skills will lead her into a good job and a strong career. We all benefit from her learning journey - everyone in Scotland benefits from the investment made into colleges as organisations. When colleges thrive, Scotland thrives.


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