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FE students reach for the glittering prizes

She's an inspiring role model for Aberdeen College students. Just five years after completing her HND in television operations and production there, Emma Brumpton is working as an international film- maker.

And now she's been awarded the prestigious Association of Colleges Gold Award for Further Education Alumni, which recognises those achieving excellence in their field after leaving college.

Emma, 26, has filmed and produced documentaries across the globe, including a feature on witch hunting in Burkina Faso and films on Islamic women's football. She is currently working on a news feature on Cross River gorillas and luxury tourism in Nigeria.

It's the perfect story to encourage youngsters embarking on media careers, especially tonight as Aberdeen College launches its Creative Industries at an event to showcase its courses and students' achievements.

There are courses in corporate communications; TV and radio; music and sound; theatre studies; art and design; designer fashion; and creative digital industries, now grouped as Creative Industries.

It is a suitably glamorous occasion, with fashion students in flamboyant red dresses rubbing shoulders with the student cast of David Copperfield, which performs an extract from its upcoming production in full costume.

There are aspiring photographers, fashion designers, film- makers, radio and TV producers, composers, sound engineers, journalists and publicists mingling with guests from television and film production companies.

Students' photographs, artwork, websites and films are on show and music students are performing some of their compositions. Even the hospitality students are getting a chance to pitch their canapes.

There are more than 1,500 full- and part-time students enrolled on Creative Industries courses at Aberdeen College, and more than a quarter of them progress to related degree courses at the Robert Gordon University.

"When I started in TV in the 1970s, I was told that where a camera can go, you can go. And that's what I tell my students," says Paul Adderton, who runs the college's multimedia centre.

"In the creative industries - TV, radio and stage production - it's the world stage we play on. We are seeking employment all over the world."

This event highlights job opportunities across the spectrum of the creative industries - locally, nationally and internationally. The centre also attracts international students - currently from France, Finland, Algeria and Germany.

"We recognise that the jobs are in the creative industries and not just in journalism, music and drama, but the industry at large is providing job opportunities for our students," says Sandra Walker, director of curriculum and learning at the college.

"So we wanted the employers, the students, the staff to see the synergies across all the different components of the creative industries and to make sure that people are developing these talents and skills when they are with us."

The college is keen to ensure its curriculum meets evolving industry demands: "We want to make sure employers are telling us what they need our students to be trained in and that they can see the skills of our students. So it's a two-way thing," Mrs Walker explains.

Among the guests this evening is Jacqui Scott, a producerdirector with AVC Media Enterprises in Aberdeen, which provides work placements and jobs for students.

Her company highlights those creative industry connections: "We don't just do media productions - we do advertising, PR, graphic design, 3D design, conference hire and training. It's a full 360 agency," she points out.

Ms Scott says students can work productively on placements because the college has state-of-the-art facilities and uses industry-standard editing and camera equipment. "The facilities here are absolutely outstanding," she says.

In a highly competitive industry, students are also being equipped for self-employment. "One of the things we are aware of is that students are going to be freelance, selling their services to a range of employers," Mrs Walker says.

"We are looking at making people flexible, employable and hoping to give them skills in terms of managing their own business. So we work with Robert Gordon University to give them opportunities to participate in a certificate in management when they finish their course."

College principal Rob Wallen believes it's important to encourage resourceful and enterprising students with the drive to succeed in creative industries.

"As with all our courses, it's important that we help them develop employability skills as well as the vocationally-specific skills," he says. "I think it is about developing a can-do, get-up-and-go attitude and a willingness to do things."

In a competitive global market, the college is also using the internet to promote students' talents. "We were the first college in the UK to develop an iTunes U site," he explains. "It has a huge number of hits from people all over the world, accessing creative works from our students, whether it's music or films they've produced or examples of students' photography."

In response to market demand, a new course is about to be launched. "We are offering an HNC in 3D computer animation, but it's actually HND year one, so the students can progress to university - into second year at Robert Gordon University," says Innes Taylor, curriculum leader for visual communication and photography, which has 350 full-time students.

Multimedia centre manager Paul Adderton certainly has good cause for celebration: "We're just back from the Celtic Media Festival in Newry, in Ireland, where we picked up the award for best student film this year. That was one of our students, Laurence Woods," he says.

Next month, Emma Brumpton will pick up the Association of Colleges Gold Award for Further Education Alumni at the Houses of Parliament. "I'm over the moon about that," Mr Woods laughs.

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