Comment: A chance to change right here in capital

EDINBURGH College can give you new skills, says Jeroen van Herk

'We cant make anyone stick to their new year resolutions but we can certainly help people to take the steps they need to change their lives for the better.' Picture: Lisa Ferguson
'We cant make anyone stick to their new year resolutions but we can certainly help people to take the steps they need to change their lives for the better.' Picture: Lisa Ferguson

After the turn of the year and with the new one now underway, our instincts are to make the changes to our lives that will make us happier and more fulfilled, professionally and personally. Beyond the lifestyle tweaks we promise to stick to – to eat better, exercise more or become better organised – but which don’t always last beyond January, it’s also a chance to make the big decisions that can set us off on completely different paths.

To anyone wondering how they can make the right life-changing choices to open up new avenues of opportunity and lead to successful futures, further education could be the answer. College can provide the keys to unlocking potential, giving people the skills and impetus to get out of their comfort zone and make the most of themselves, whether it’s to launch, boost or change a career, or just to learn something new for personal development or enjoyment.

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This month, dozens of new courses will begin at Edinburgh College across its curriculum areas, with more than 2,500 places available at all levels.

Our January-start courses provide a chance to get a foot in the door towards a career in some of Scotland’s most vibrant, growing areas such as the creative industries. Courses in sound engineering, Digital audio skills, digital media and internet technology teach the hi-tech skills that Scotland needs to meet the demands of a fast-changing world. There’s also the NPA photography course, which paves the way for entry to the college’s BA Photography.

The BA Photography is a highly-regarded course that has produced the most-recent winners of the British Institute of Professional Photography’s Scottish professional photographer of the year and student photographer of the year prizes, as well as scores of other student successes.

There are opportunities to get involved in some of Scotland’s other key industries such as hospitality and tourism, construction and engineering, including courses introducing sustainable energy technology.

And for people currently working and wanting to develop in their chosen careers, industry-recognised qualifications in areas such as management and leadership, and human resource management can be the platform to progress to higher levels. We understand that some people aren’t comfortable with a formal learning environment, may not have been in one in many years or lack the confidence to believe they can succeed. Others may not be ready for the next steps they want to take, whether that’s in education or employment and need a bit more support.

So Edinburgh College offers courses that ease the transition between different levels, ranging from access courses that allow students to progress onto HND study in August 2015 and beyond, to employability programmes and pre-apprentice courses in construction trades, which are routes into apprenticeships.

For young people who have been out of education or work for a while, the “Get Ready For College” course is designed to develop their essential skills such as communication, numeracy and IT, and sample different subject areas to identify their interests and explore career options. We also run a similar course for adults, “Adult Returners”.

Non-native-English speakers of all levels who need to boost their language skills can take advantage of one of our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) General English courses.

Becoming more competent and confident in speaking English can make learning and working much easier and more rewarding, and can give people the confidence to take further steps in their lives. There’s also the opportunity to learn other languages, including part-time courses in Italian, German, French and Spanish.

As well as courses within Edinburgh College, we’re also out in the community delivering programmes with partner organisations, including the access to creative digital media course at the WHALE Arts Centre in Wester Hailes, which gives people a taste of the creative industries and a route to education or employment. And, with our partners at the Hibernian Community Foundation, we’re offering a filming and photography course.

We can’t make anyone stick to their new year resolutions but we can certainly help people to take the steps they need to change their lives for the better.

• Jeroen van Herk is president of Edinburgh College Students’ Association.

For more information about courses starting in January at Edinburgh College, go to