About us: The Team

Karen Borland

Karen Borland – Centre Manager

Karen brings with her a wealth of experience from industry and education.  As a graduate in Art and Design, specialising in Textiles then progressing to an MA in Interdisciplinary Design, Karen put these to good use initially working as a designer and colourist in furnishings for Dorma.  A desire to have more control and expand her repertoire in media saw Karen becoming a freelance designer and artist in her own right.  This proved a successful move and saw Karen gaining acclaim through such prizes as the RSA Bursary Award and Frank Warner Memorial Prize. It also saw Karen exhibiting her work across the UK and Europe.

Whilst she continued to be freelance, Karen was drawn to the field of Education where she took on a part time lecturing role at Salford College, Manchester; specifically teaching in the fields of art, design and textiles.  This balance of freelance and part time work continued for some time before Karen was persuaded to take on the full time position of Programme Leader for Foundation Art and Design.  This she did successfully until moving from Further to Higher Education, taking on the Senior Lecturer for Fine Art Textiles at the University of Salford.

During the next 6 years Karen managed to continue to exhibit her own work but also tutor students in Visual Arts on the BA programme of the same name.  The opportunity to run and tutor on summer programmes working with disengaged and disadvantaged young people in Salford proved a hugely rewarding experience and something that she relished delivering for the next 4 years.  It was no surprise therefore, that when she was eventually to return to Scotland in 2004 that Karen  jumped at the chance to take on a lecturing role for the School of Inclusion at James Watt College.  This role provided Karen with the opportunity to work with a diverse range of learners, not just in arts and crafts, but a full range of other topics including supporting those with dyslexia, an area of personal interest. It also gave her the opportunity to continue her freelance work which then extended to a full range of evening and weekend projects working within the Ayrshire community groups and with a  wide variety of materials.

In her spare time Karen continues to paint; she is a keen photographer and gardener and enjoys cooking! She also has a passion for animals particularly her dogs, horses and rabbits.

Andy Cassells

Andy Cassells – Trainer

A key member of the Ucan team, Andy is largely responsible for the extensive build of our Training Centre at Willock Street and all of our internal developments and external build project since.  A jack of all trades, Andy joined Ucan with over 30 years experience in carpentry and furniture making at the very beginning.

His experience included  working with a variety of products including the manufacture of fire surrounds, kitchens and high quality cabinets and bedroom furniture.  Starting out on an apprenticeship from school, Andy initially was a bench worker but over time he worked his way up from charge-hand to Production Manager.  During this time he was involved in the design, build, assembly, polishing and finishing of products.

Importantly, as well as being responsible for a large team of staff, Andy also had a significant role in quality assurance and staff training. Over time, Andy has extended his repertoire of building projects to a variety of garden products; from planters and garden furniture to summer houses.

In his spare time Andy enjoys hill walking and mountain biking.  He is also a keen musician and singer and for the past 30 years he has been a popular attraction around the social clubs and day centres across East Ayrshire.

Andy is married to Helen and has one son.

Lynn Paul

Lynn Paul – Trainer

Initially working towards a career in Accounting, Lynn could not hide her passion for music, therefore it was no surprise that she eventually found a career teaching music in schools.  For the past 14 years she has been a music instructor at an ASN school as well as giving private tuition in piano and the accordion.

As well as playing in a ceilidh band, Lynn has been involved in scriptwriting for a variety of school shows.  She play badminton and enjoys scrapbooking but particularly enjoys holidaying with her teenage son and daughter.

Jules Coleman

Jules Coleman – Trainer

Ucan’s answer to Bear Grylls, Jules has had a varied career over the years from member of the Territorial Army to HGV and Forklift Driver before setting on a career in Social Care.  It was in this latter role that Jules spent a substantial part of his career, 12 years working with young people with emotional and behavioural problems and a further 4 years working with adults with Additional Support Needs and/or Mental Health difficulties.  Jules is a qualified Social Carer and Gym Instructor.

In his spare time Jules loves to be outdoors whether its hill walking, camping, kayaking or out on his motorcycle.  This passion is something that Jules is keen to bring to his role at Ucan by helping others to gain new experiences and realise their potential through outdoor activities.

Jules is married to Lou and he has a daughter.

Yvonne Dowds

Yvonne Dowds – Trainer

After leaving school, Yvonne joined a YTS programme and on its completion she spent the next 6 years working in retail, advancing to become a shop manager.  She then took some time off to raise her children, though took on the role of book keeper for her partner’s business.  When the time came to think about re-entering the job market Yvonne decided on a total change of profession and went to college to study Social Care.

Going to college proved an inspired move for Yvonne who threw herself into her studies and where she relished the opportunities to work with a variety of client groups.  Eventually after qualifying in her HNC and SVQ level 3, Yvonne became a project worker working for children with disabilities for the next 4 years.

In her free time Yvonne enjoys music, cinema and the occasional soap opera.  Her key interests, however, are keep fit (she is now a qualified Gym Instructor) and most importantly football, particularly following the football team of her young son.

Yvonne has a partner Scott and two teenage boys.

Carol Fairbairn

Carol Fairbairn – Trainer

Carol has spent over 25 years working in kitchens, catering and cleansing environments before joining Ucan in 2014.  During this time she gained vast experience working in catering with British Telecom, running a local community cafe and most recently and predominantly working in catering and as a cleansing supervisor within North Ayrshire Council.

This experience is only one small part of what Carol brings to Ucan.  She also brings significant personal experience and knowledge of working  with young people and adults with a learning disability as well as seeking to promote their rights.

Combined, her career and personal experience make an excellent fit for the goals of Ucan.  Her promotion of individuals rights has seen a significant number of our trainees accessing opportunities to work in a busy working kitchen. She has also been a key component in the training of Ucan’s part time cleansing team, also made up of some of our trainees.

In her spare time Carol enjoys going for walks with her 3 Yorkshire terriers and swimming.  She is married to Joe.

Sandy Campbell

Sandy Campbell – Trainer

Sandy’s past experience has been varied but has always involved working with his hands and a large amount of creativity. A self taught sculptor, Sandy has enjoyed recognition and acclaim throughout his career.  This has included designing a range of trophies and monuments such as his carving of the “Wallace Yew Tree” shipped worldwide, designing and sculpting the “Burns Humanitarian Award” and the “Mr Scotland Body Building Award”.  If you take a trip to the People’s Palace in Glasgow you will see the bust of famous Glaswegian singer Alex Harvey made by Sandy. Furthermore, if you had the money you may well have been shopping in Harrod’s Toy Department where his “Hideway Hollow” tree house was on display.

During his career Sandy has been an Instructor for Impact Arts and Valley Arc.  He was a designer and manufacturer/trainer with Community Business Pottery Works, designer and carver at Pear Tree – Tree House Company and chief designer for Plaster works at Sakol Furniture as well as a furniture maker at Burndale Cabinet Makers.

In his spare time Sandy, funnily enough, likes to carve and sculpt with a variety of materials and has worked on a range of personal projects but also those for clients of his Craft Shop/Studio that he runs with his wife Liz.  He enjoys music (bit of a rocker!) and cinema and has two sons.

Terry Strain

Terry Strain – Trainer

One of the newest members of the team, Terry joins Ucan bringing with her over 30 years experience work with individuals with learning disabilities and complex needs.  This experience was achieved working for a variety of adult training centres and other resources across East Ayrshire.

Terry’s experience does not just come from her day to day work. In 2009 she was nominated for East Ayrshire’s “Excellence” award for helping to set up i-Dance a dance company for adults with a learning disability. This group, of varying abilities, performed locally but also across Britain and parts of Europe. Furthermore, Terry continues as the Head Coach of Scotland’s Special Olympics West Ten-Pin Bowling Team, a role she has been involved in for the past 18 years.  Certainly her husband Jim, who also works for Ucan, says he was “bowled over” when he first met her! (sorry)

In her spare time Terry is a keen amateur dramatics buff, she has written poetry and plays.  She also enjoys packing up her camper van and getting away for the weekend with Jim.


Jim Strain – Support Worker/Trainer

At an early age Jim proved himself to be a talented boxer, working up to become Western Districts champion and representing Scotland at amateur level. Eventually hanging up his gloves, Jim, along with his father and grandfather, set up a boxing club working with young people.  During this time Jim also pursued a career in the building trade working predominately as a roofer, painter and plasterer.

Jim’s passion for working with disadvantaged groups has continued throughout this time and now he has swapped the ring to become a Special Olympics Coach for the Ten Pin Bowling Team, working with adults with disabilities.

Jim is now a support worker and one of our drivers at Ucan.  He is a trainer in painting and decorating and has worked with our trainees both within the centre and also on a number of external projects.

Jim is married to Terry, he has 3 daughters and a stepson.  He has a passion for caravanning and is an award winning trout fisherman.


Simon Jenkinson – Part Time Trainer

Until recently, Simon “The Saint” Jenkinson juggled his time between being a full time house husband, carer for one of his two sons who was born with Downs Syndrome and volunteering at both Centrestage and as a DJ for Crosshouse Hospital Radio; something he has done for the past 6 years.  It was this latter role that Ucan first came in to contact with Simon, when he generously agreed to give work experience at the Hospital for a couple of our trainees.  Time commitments and other demands on Simon’s time at the station however, meant that this opportunity had to come to an end.   Fortunately for Ucan we were able to bring Simon in to help set up and then pass on his DJ and radio skills to our trainees.

Simon not only brings his extensive experience as a DJ to Ucan but also as an experienced special educational needs auxiliary in a local primary school and also as an Advanced Driving Instructor. Simon also continues to volunteer at Centrestage where he is part of an all male singing group that have been getting rave reviews.  If you get the chance you must check out “boys2Men’s” next performance!

Simon’s hobbies are holidays with the family, listening to music, reading, eating out, going to the movies and socialising with friends.


Debbie Love – Part Time Trainer

As well as working for Ucan, Debbie runs her own Clinical Hypnotherapy practice in Ayrshire.  Her therapy sessions have helped clients to manage stress, build confidence and overcome phobias.  It is no surprise, therefore, that these skills have been put to great use with many of Ucan’s trainees who have benefitted from sessions on Stress Management and Relaxation.

Debbie has a Degree in Psychology but also a wealth of experience working in residential and day services , supporting people with disabilities. Furthermore,  whilst employed by Social Services in North Ayrshire she set up the Job Coaching Service, to support people with additional support needs into work placements and supported employment.

Prior to focussing on her own practice Debbie was a Lecturer working in Inclusion within Further Education for 11 years where she worked with students on improving communication and employability skills as well as a wide range of project work.

Debbie’s approach fits well with and complements the work of our dedicated staff group aiding their aim of providing a motivating and fun learning environment.

When not working, Debbie enjoys relaxing with her family and lots of pets! She also enjoys writing and craftwork.


Joanna Burns – Part Time Trainer

Ucan’s Dancing Queen! Joanna trained in Freestyle, Hip Hop, Street, Latin American and Ballroom dancing from an early age and competed in many competitions throughout the UK. Starting at an early age she was ranked 1st place and won the top dancer award for UK & Ireland at the age of 15. Taking this to professional level she danced in Westend Theatre Shows until she finished studying for her International Dance Teachers Association award. On completion, she then decided on a career as Dance Teacher.

Her other love is makeup and when based in London she was fortunate enough to gain experience working on a number of high profile West End shows.  In 2007 Joanne moved to Scotland and in 2014 she opened my own company ‘Precious Effects’.   Her portfolio ranges from weddings, theatre shows, music videos, adverts, TV productions, MTV awards, published magazine shoots & catwalk shows.

Joanne is married to John and has two young children.  She also, however, dedicates a lot of her time into supporting her older brother who has a learning disability.  This latter role and the experiences it has presented her with have motivated Joanna to  helping maximise the potential for others with a learning disability too.  Joanna says “I’m a great believer that everybody deserves the chance to shine”. Something that makes her a perfect fit for Ucan.

Natalie Brown

Natalie Brown – Support Worker

Despite her young age, Natalie has always had an interest in working and helping others.  So determined has she been that at an early age she taught herself sign language in order to help a friend, and has now been able to put this to good use in a her career.

Natalie enjoys going to the cinema, listening to music and spending time with her friends.  She is a dedicated mum to her son whom she sites as one of her greatest achievements.

A qualified First Aider, Natalie is currently undertaking SVQs in Care which she hopes to pass very soon!

Kirsty Conway – Support Worker

Following a successful placement with Ucan as an HNC student, Kirsty has now joined our team on a part time basis.  She comes with a significant amount of experience, both through her time in college but also through other work experience.  This experience includes working in residential settings, working with both older adults and adults with a learning disability, as well as roles supporting individuals with mental health difficulties and those experiencing homelessness.

Currently Kirsty is studying for a BA Degree in Social Work at Glasgow Caledonian University.  In her spare time she enjoys reading, eating out and cinema.  Most important to Kirsty, however, is having fun with her young son.


Melanie Wright – Administrative Officer

More than just an administrator, Mel often finds herself as the first port of call for trainees, families and other professionals as well as someone who offers trainees a degree of informal support through their day. It is not unusual to see Mel step in to support some of our classes here at UCAN when the need arises!

Mel has worked in an administrative role in a variety of settings; in Insurance, Real Estate, Engineering and Primary Education, before leaving to study for an HNC in Social Care at Ayrshire College…all whilst raising her three boys and finding the time to be the best “Soccer Mom” in the West! (this is a self-awarded title!)

In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, cooking and baking, walking her dog and watching football.

David Ligat

David Ligat – Part Time Support Worker

As a part time support worker, David brings with him significant experience from his other role as a member of the  Young People Sport and Diversion of Vibrant Communities. In this role he co-ordinates and supervises a range of diversionary activities engaging with people of all ages and abilities. He is also responsible for leading low level walking groups and the utilisation of East Ayrshires Mobile Skateboard Park.

David is a qualified first aider and also has an NQ in Sports Coaching.  In his spare time he enjoys hill walking, snowboarding, mountain boarding, climbing, airsoft as well as taking his 2 dogs for long walks. Although a keen cook, David also enjoys eating out.  He is also someone who likes working with his hands; anything from woodwork and joinery to tinkering with car engines.

Emma Nuttall

Emma Nuttall – Part Time Support Worker

Another student working part time at Ucan, Emma joined us after a total change of career choice.  Previously working in sales, she eventually worked up to become an assistant store manager.  Her clear aptitude for working with people and developing strong working relationships saw her moving in to the field of agriculture where she took on the role as an area milk recorder travelling across Scotland, meeting and working with local farmers. In August 2014 Emma’s desire to do something different whilst continuing to work closely with people, making a difference, saw her make the brave step of going back to college to study Health & Social Care.  Her long term ambition is to move on to university and eventually become a Midwife.

In her spare time, Emma enjoys being outdoors; this invariably involves working with her five horses, two dogs and her numerous rabbits that she shows.  She enjoys cooking and experimenting with new recipes and is particularly talented baker.

Gavin Allan

Gavin Allan –  Support Worker

Gavin has been with Ucan since the very beginning.  Indeed, if you visit our Facebook page you will see him demonstrating that he is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty.  At the very outset of our development, Gavin was there, knocking down walls and helping to build them too.

Qualifying from College with a qualification in Landscaping, Gavin has enjoyed the opportunity to both work with his hands and work outdoors.  Before he joined Ucan, he had been involved on a voluntary basis in a range of projects through the Prince Trust, The Maritime Volunteer Service and he gained the John Muir award for his involvement in environmental projects in North Ayrshire.

Initially as a volunteer, Gavin’s commitment to Ucan saw him eventually being offered a role as a support worker in our workshop and landscaping before progressing to a class room support worker for which he is currently working towards his SVQ 2.

Gavin enjoys music, fishing and hill walking and until recently was the goal keeper for his local pub team.