John MacMillan: Joined-up thinking helps youngsters get ahead in business and life

Ten years ago, East Lothian Council was delighted to welcome Queen Margaret University to Musselburgh, providing a locally accessible higher education institution for school leavers and those returning to education. The relocation of QMU to East Lothian was a significant development, akin to any other large business relocating to the area, providing employment and generating other economic activity through its expenditure.

Queen Margaret University has entered into several partnerships with councils and others to give students practical skills which will support and enhance key sectors of the Scottish economy

There was clear intent by QMU to work with East Lothian Council and other organisations to stimulate ­economic growth and build social capital. It is an opportune time to reflect on the success of this collaboration.

In 2012, QMU and East Lothian Council partnered to deliver the Business Gateway service on ­campus, within the University’s Business Innovation Zone. The Business Gateway service, which is managed by the council, provides advice and support to businesses to start up and grow. It remains the only Business Gateway to be located within a Scottish ­university and confirms QMU’s commitment to supporting Scotland’s small and medium sized enterprises.

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The same year, QMU, East Lothian Council and Edinburgh College created the East Lothian Hospitality and Tourism Academy. The focus was to help young people maximise their educational opportunities and develop transferable skills, smooth the transition between school, ­college, university and employment and support the development of one of Scotland’s key sectors.

John McMillan, East Lothian Council Provost and Cabinet Spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism

Initially involving three secondary schools in East Lothian, the Academy not only helped provide outstanding skills development opportunities for young people, it also aimed to raise standards within the industry. The Academy model has been recognised as an initiative which delivers real solutions for Scotland’s young people and from this the South East Scotland Academies Partnership was born, expanding to involve City of Edinburgh Council, Midlothian Council, Scottish Borders Council, Scottish Borders College and industry partners.

This year, the academies programme includes Film & Media, Media & Communications, Events & Hospitality, Acting and Performance and Health & Social Care. An example of its success is that, in 2016, all students who came through the Health and Social Care Academy went on to study a health-related course through Edinburgh College on leaving school, achieving a ‘positive destination’. Twenty-seven previous academy students are now studying full time at QMU.

In 2014, Queen Margaret University became the first higher education institution in the east of Scotland to host the Children’s University, which aims to promote social mobility by providing innovative learning activities outside normal school hours to children aged five to 14. The Children’s University (QMCU) aims to help school children become confident learners and broaden their horizons, strives to raise children’s aspirations, encourages them to learn in different ways, and rewards them for taking part in a wide variety of learning activities outside of school hours. A total of 3500 local pupils from 30 partner schools now take part throughout East Lothian and Midlothian.

Most recently, the council has been working with QMU as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal to support their ambitions to expand, and deliver an innovation park with a focus on food and drink which would build upon the University’s Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation. Launched in 2014, this was a first for Scotland. QMU has established academic expertise in the translation and application of science to support successful research and development within the food and drink sector, a key sector for East Lothian, and several East Lothian businesses have benefited from access to the services which QMU offer. Collaboration with East Lothian’s food and drink sector has continued at a strategic level, with QMU becoming a member of East Lothian’s Food and Drink Business Improvement District (.

John McMillan, East Lothian Council Provost and Cabinet Spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism

It has been an exciting ten years, with truly innovative collaboration for the benefit not just of our young people but for business and the East Lothian economy as a whole. I am hugely optimistic about what the next ten years of QMU in East Lothian will bring and I look forward to strengthening this partnership.

John McMillan, East Lothian Council provost and cabinet spokesperson for economic development and tourism.