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Colleges are a lifeline to our communities

Claire Donaghey web

By Claire Donaghey, Assistant Principal Faculty of Arts and Continuing Education

I am not from Glasgow, but growing up in the 80s, it was the place to be. It was at the forefront of the music scene and television programmes like City Lights and Tutti Frutti were the backdrop to our family viewing. So, on turning 18, of course I was going to Glasgow, and it didn’t disappoint.

There was something more than the glamour of a big city which appealed. Glasgow had a shared story to the one I’d grown up with in the north-east of England. We shared a common bond, a history of industries collapsing, where families were broken apart as people left in search of jobs, but where communities also rallied together and where strength and pride remained. And it is the same story which is emerging again, a familiar plot-line to one already lived through, where high levels of deprivation were indelibly linked to health and poverty-related inequalities. 

But please don’t think that I’d leave you with a bleak and bitter ending to this story, because we are never without hope. And the hope lies, as has always been the way in Scotland, with learning, knowledge and skills. 

Glasgow will thrive by helping people reach their potential through developing new skills and confidence, and it is for this reason that colleges exist. Glasgow Clyde College (GCC) provides a range of community-based courses which aim to help the most marginalised and impoverished communities in our city. Each of our courses and initiatives aim to support those who have little or no qualifications, self-esteem or confidence, or have had negative experiences with formal learning. 

Currently, GCC offers 92 courses across the city in 40 local venues – ranging from literacy, numeracy, digital skills, health and wellbeing and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Our programme is delivered with support from over 100 partners, including local authorities, health boards, homeless and addiction services, and job centres. In the last six months alone, GCC has supported more than 1,200 individuals. 

GCC’s classes have unlocked doors for many - not just in the form of jobs, but also in developing a sense of belonging. 

This isn't just about ticking boxes, our Community Learning and Development (CLD) programme empowers individuals with the tools to break free from limitations and build brighter futures. From basic skills in IT, to employability workshops and family learning initiatives, CLD offers a diverse tapestry of opportunities and is important in making Glasgow a thriving place to live, learn and work. 

The impact is undeniable: between last August and February of this year, 90% of CLD graduates entered further education or landed jobs; their newfound skills filling critical gaps in the workforce and their success stories inspiring others. 

What is evident is how much colleges can play a crucial role in providing routes into brighter futures for individuals who often feel they have such limited options or places to turn. Let us remember the stories of the past and protect our communities by helping and supporting people to be the best they can.