The Runner-Up for the Interconnect Student Award 2018 was Catriona Cook from Ayrshire College. Here she tells us more about the Ayrshire Connects network she has helped to establish.

Catriona Cook – Interconnect Student Award 2018 Runner Up

Whilst undertaking a modern apprenticeship in digital marketing with Ayrshire College, I was asked to help set up and support Ayrshire Connects, a network for female STEM and construction students at Ayrshire College. I am so pleased to have been recognised for my involvement with the group at the Interconnect Student Awards 2018.

First, I’ll tell you a bit about Ayrshire Connects. The network is a fun and supportive group for girls and women who work, study or are interested in STEM. The aim of Ayrshire Connects is to allow female students across the College to connect to each other, to students in other colleges and universities, to employers and women in the industry sectors they aspire to enter, and to senior pupils in secondary schools across Ayrshire.

So far, we’ve built an online community; a closed Facebook group where we share event information, interesting articles, photos from around the College, job and apprenticeship opportunities and some general chit chat. As well as our online community, we love to get together and get inspired. We’ve hosted an extremely popular cheese and wine night, with a guest speaker from MERCK pharmaceuticals and we hooked up with FemEng, the University of Glasgow’s female engineering society for a tour of their amazing campus.

One of the highlights of our calendar is Mission Discovery, a week long space and STEM summer school, which invites students to spend a week working in teams under the guidance of NASA Astronauts, NASA personnel, rocket scientists and world-renowned professors. Ayrshire Connects host an evening during the week, this year’s event was called ‘Girls with Grit’ and focused on the determination and grit you must possess to succeed in not only your career, but in life. Over 100 people came to the College’s Kilmarnock Campus to hear Sarah Murray, NASA HQs Council Executive / Mission Support and Partnership Councils, demonstrate how she showed extraordinary perseverance in dealing with sexual and racial prejudice on her way to a 25-year career at NASA.

All of the events Ayrshire Connects take part in fall under the College’s over-arching campaign, #ThisAyrshireGirlCan which encourages young women to think about the opportunities available to them in STEM. It’s great to work for a College that actively works to tackle the gender gap in STEM. You can watch the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan video series here:

I hope that Ayrshire Connects will continue to evolve and grow, and that we can inspire the young people of Ayrshire to choose the highly rewarding STEM career path.

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