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Learn and be Inspired
by Margaret King
Flexible Learning Manager
From providing our students with a range of courses designed to bring out the best in them from an early stage, to supporting those about to graduate and join the workforce, we can call upon the expertise of lecturers, researchers and consultants to ensure their time at college is both inspirational and relevant to rural business needs.
Our Rural Policy Centre brings together expertise from across SAC, drawing in staff with experience in research and consultancy and cascading this up-to-the-minute information to lecturers in the Learning Division. Students appreciate knowing that their time at college is backed up by a wide range of expertise and that they can rely on support continuing when they graduate and enter the workplace or, in some cases, embark on business ventures of their own.
Entrepreneurship is an important part of all our courses and we encourage students to think big and move out of their comfort zones. Last year saw the first Annual European SME Enterprise Event held at our Craibstone campus near Aberdeen. The keynote speaker was Brian Pack, former Chief Executive of ANM Group who encouraged students to grasp any opportunity that comes their way. Other presenters were two ex students, Roz Cauldwell, now an Advisor with the Business Gateway, and Gregor Mackintosh of Aberdeenshire, who's just won a contract to supply 15 Asda stores with his Glendaveny Extra Virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil.
“The idea of producing Extra Virgin “cold pressed” rapeseed oil came about during my honours year at the Scottish Agricultural College in Aberdeen, where I carried out a study on cold pressed rapeseed oil. I saw an opening in the market for this great healthy product and began working on establishing Mackintosh of Glendaveny after graduating.”
Many of our Rural Business students have been successful in national competitions and have won awards recognising their skills and dedication to their studies. One of our most recent success stories is Jill Brown, currently in her Honours Year of the Rural Business Management degree, who recently won the LANTRA Learner of the Year Award (Higher Education). She also won third place in the Pinnacle Business Awards 2009 and first prize in Scotland Food and Drink New Product of the Year award with her Berry Good vodka. Like many others, Jill began her SAC career on a Higher National Diploma (HND) course, but then decided to take on the challenge of a degree.
“SAC has a good balance of academic studies and study trips to local businesses to show first hand how enterprises are developed and run. Studying with SAC has been really fantastic as I've been able to manage my business around the timetable. I am looking forward to graduating in July and working within the food and drink industry whilst continuing to allow Berry Good to grow,” said Jill.
Another student who saw a niche opportunity in the market is Steve Mitchell from Clemtrie Farm in Fife. Steve started a highly successful buffalo business, Puddledub Buffalo, when he graduated from our Edinburgh campus a couple of years ago. There are now about 400 head of buffalo at Clemtrie and Steve sells buffalo meat at eight Scottish farmers markets as well as online and from his newly acquired butchers shop. When asked how much of a challenge it was setting up the business, Steve said: “It was not meant to be easy, otherwise everyone would be doing it”
SAC has three main campuses and another student, Stuart Rutherford, graduated from our Ayr campus in 2005. His uncle introduced him to the poultry industry when he was sixteen and, having decided to take the opportunity of a career in the poultry industry seriously, he enrolled with SAC. Stuart graduated with an HND in Poultry Production and Management, a qualification that landed him a trainee manager's job with Grampian Country Chickens in Aberdeen. Having gained commercial experience he then went on to develop his successful Nith Valley Eggs business.
“It's always been my ambition to have my own business,” he said. “I've four mobile hen sheds and I'm making plans to expand the business.” Eggs from his 9000 birds are on sale in Sainsburys and a number of local outlets.
Not all potential students can attend college full-time and we have developed our courses to allow both part-time and distance learning opportunities. Students can attend on one or more half days per week to build up a qualification over a number of years or they can enrol on our HNC in Rural Business Management by part-time, online distance learning. The recent Rural Scotland in Focus Report 2010 reveals that although Scotland has 99.6% basic broadband coverage, connections are extremely variable and speeds much less than in Scotland's cities. This has implications for rural entrepreneurs and those wishing to work and/or study from rural locations. We have overcome this by providing all our distance learning materials both online and on CD or USB stick so students are not disadvantaged by slow broadband speeds. This is the joy of e-learning. There is always another way to provide access and we try to suit all situations and learning styles no matter where a person lives or their personal cicumstances.
Our distance learning programmes begin in September each year with a study weekend, designed to allow students to get to know staff and other students, familiarise themselves with the online environment in which they will be studying and be introduced to the first session's modules. The Rural Business Management HNC includes modules on Marketing, Economics, Financial Records, IT and Web Design and runs over two years with just three mandatory study weekends per year. It's a qualification in its own right or it can lead on to an HND, Degree and even a Postgraduate qualification for those with ambition to reach the top. For further information about the Rural Business programme please contact Caroline Daniel on 01224 711083, or email@example.com. You can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on our other highly successful distance learning programs include ones relating to the countryside, environment and organic farming and we encourage you to come along to an Open Day or Taster Day to discuss your requirements.