College making crime pay

Release Date: 25 August 2016

An education project which uses cash taken from criminals impressed Shirley-Anne Somerville, when the  Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Science visited Dundee and Angus College on Friday, August 25.

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In the Learning Lab,Shirley-Anne Sommerville views her 3D image on screen with Joy Howat (from the) Lab and Principal Grant Ritchie.

Ms Somerville saw first-hand how D&A Cashback Academy has benefitted not only the young people with multiple barriers who took part in the project but also the wider community.

The project drew down more than £200,000 from the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Creativity programme which ploughs the proceeds of crime back into communities to benefit Scotland’s young people.

The D&A Cashback Academy initially saw more than 30 unemployed people receive training and instruction in website design and creative marketing.

Those taking part worked closely with local businesses by designing logos, creating websites, coming up with branding and marketing ideas.

As this first phase drew to a close Cashback Academy creator, lecturer Fiona Muhsin, launched a second innovative programme which also combined the elements of breaking down barriers to education, enterprise and community benefits.

Fiona created a course designed to help unemployed people gain IT skills while at the same time overcome a difficulty endured by some foodbank users when they are given a bag of groceries but don’t have the skills to prepare the contents.

“People referred to foodbanks are not offered a choice of groceries, a parcel of food is made up for them and sometime this leads to people finding themselves with ingredients with which they are unfamiliar,” explained Fiona.

“The course we devised culminates with the production of a range of food preparation tutorials available on the internet and mobile devices and also printed versions to be included in food parcels.”

The NPA (National Progression Award) in digital media production, recruited 18 people directly from JobCentre Plus in both Arbroath and Dundee.

During her tour of the D&A Gardyne Campus, which included the Enterprise D&A Incubator suite for fledgling businesses,  Ms Somerville met and the discussed the project with students of the Cashback Academy.

“Dundee and Angus College is at the heart of its community, helping to create positive and brighter futures for the local people,” said Somerville.

“I am particularly impressed with how the college is providing essential learning and development opportunities and is also using Scottish Government cash back funding to support the wider community tackle issues of unemployment.

“The college has two outstanding STEM facilities, a remarkable number of Modern Apprenticeships and college articulation agreements with seven HEIs, and 16 per cent of their students who achieve a HN qualification fast-track to 2nd or 3rd year of university.

“As well as fantastic links with employers and industry the college really is helping support long-term unemployed back into education or work.

“Dundee and Angus College is an exemplar college that clearly demonstrates our reforms in the college sector paying off.”

During the visit the minister discussed the importance to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths: an initiative designed to bring more females into what are sometimes perceived as non-traditional areas) and toured D&A College Learning Lab – a high-tech learning space delivering sessions involving virtual reality, augmented reality technology and a 3D structure sensor and printer – managed by a six-strong, all-women team!

“D&A College has been one of the most consistently high-performing colleges for the technology/digital sector for the past five years,” said Grant Ritchie, principal.

“We take some pride in the fact that our college bucks the national trend in subjects such as science where we have more female students than male.”