The Shetland College plays a pivotal role in Shetland’s educational ecosystem, something I hadn’t fully appreciated until I began to research the most northern partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands. It’s not just Shetland’s school leavers they provide a service to. They are a huge part of Shetland’s wealth of apprenticeship programmes, the NHS’ route to care for nurses and the Shetland Islands Council’s Development Directorate, an initiative focussed on retaining Shetland’s youth as students and workers on our bonnie Isles.
Without being cliché, they are more than just a college and they play a massive part in our small community. They are Scotland’s top college with almost 80% of full-time students achieving their awards in 2017/18. This was almost 12% higher as the rest of Scotland. They’re also the only college that has a unique pathway in the sense you could begin on a Skills for Work short course while in Secondary School then end up graduating with a doctorate years later.
Such was the case with their Student of the Year for 2018 and Whalsay lass Rhea Kay. She has progressed from a course while in third year at school right through to her BA Hons in Contemporary Textiles. In the same year she was named the University’s Higher Education Student of the Year – all coming from the humble beginnings of a course she done while at the Whalsay Junior High.
Her craft has been truly honed at the college, and acts as the prime example of everything the college can do for you if you stick at it and remain committed and passionate to your course and the accompanying dreams. When she was named the Higher Education Student of the Year, the contemporary textiles programme leader, Faye Hackers, noted this, saying “She’s been recognised in national competitions, secured placements with commercial companies and represented the university at the New Designers Graduate Fair in London.” Before adding “She is a great example of progression within the college, showing the opportunities available in Shetland.”
As part of the University of Highlands and Islands, the college is able to offer full degrees to those who want to stay and study in Shetland. This becomes hugely beneficial for the young people of Shetland that aren’t ready or wanting to leave their home in Shetland. The college courses are versatile too, in the sense that people can begin their studies in Shetland before going to the mainland. Alternatively, those who might decide to return to Shetland can complete their courses here too.
Across the country, we see courses being tailored and engineered by the leaders of industries and that’s not different in Shetland. Business & professional involvement plays a crucial part in the course development.
Rory Gillies, the Operations Manager at the college, said “there is great links with local industry and governance within the college’s committees aims to have that inclusion. This allows us to alter and develop courses to best match what’s needed within different sectors.” This of course, gives the students the best chance of success when leaving college and adapting to their career choice. This too helps dispel the myth that courses are outdated and don’t sit with the current needs from industry – courses are versatile and there’s a vast number of interchangeable modules and options when learning.
As far as the college’s impact on other aspects of the community, such as the
environment and business – the impact is vast and varied. Working with Train Shetland and the NAFC Marine Centre, there will be more than 100 new apprentices for Shetland’s businesses this year, across the likes of care, joinery, engineering and hairdressing. As well as this, students have aided Dunna Chuck Bruck for a Scalloway beach clean and the students within the college’s Shetland Students Green Team were named HISA’ Society of the Year for 2019 – highlighting the success of their commitment to improving and cherishing Shetland. They are looking to cut-out all single-use plastic from the college’s canteen as their next big challenge
If you’re interested in hearing more about the college and the wide range of options, courses and initiatives then go check them out here. If you have a story, or something you feel needs to be featured please get in touch.