Colleges of South East Midlands

Colleges call for business to collaborate to close skills gaps

A group of Further Education (FE) Colleges that represents almost 60,000 learners is launching a campaign across the South-East Midlands to help bridge the skills gap.

The group, known as Colleges of the South-East Midlands comprises Bedford, Barnfield, Milton Keynes, Moulton and Northampton colleges. The group collectively engages with 8,500 employers already, but says thousands more companies just don’t know about the help on offer to recruit new staff or retrain existing employees.

Chief Executive of The Bedford College Group, Yiannis Koursis OBE, says, “We are a catalyst, igniting the region’s potential to thrive and transforming it into a dynamic powerhouse of talent and skill. Providing an expertly trained workforce is crucial to the success of the region’s businesses. By offering an opportunity for businesses to reach us through the one-stop shop we hope to be able to demystify our sector and enable businesses that are not yet working with us to connect.”

The Delivering Skills, Boosting Business campaign has come out of the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) with expert input from local authorities, colleges and universities, employers, business groups and trade bodies. The colleges have launched a one-stop shop for employers (www.deliveringskills.co.uk) to find out more about the education and training available and to demystify the sector for companies who don’t currently partner with a college. It will also be an initial point of contact.

Sally Alexander, Principal and CEO of Milton Keynes College Group says, “Everybody understands what schools and universities are for, but colleges are a mystery to many because they’ve never had any dealings with them. We can provide bespoke training in a form to perfectly suit any business, with content agreed with them in advance. In other words, we teach the things they need us to teach.”

Corrie Harris, Principal and CEO of Moulton College says, “The best way to address the skills gaps is closer collaboration with colleges. We have been able to develop bespoke training programmes for new or existing employees, review and update curriculum content to make it relevant to business needs and inspire young people about opportunities within their chosen sector. This campaign will be working to increase awareness of these considerable benefits to a wider reach of businesses in the region.”

Because the vast majority of learners are local to them, colleges are best-placed to connect businesses with the right recruits in their area, or to train up existing members of a company’s workforce.

Alexander Balicki, Head of Training at PJ Care, says, “PJ Care works alongside MK College in a number of ways, and this is something we are extremely proud of. Previously, we have upskilled our existing workforce by utilising Apprenticeships programmes and by taking part in bespoke training programs tailored to meet our training and skills needs.”

As well as helping to write an individual’s curriculum to suit their needs, businesses are also encouraged to come into the classroom to speak to learners directly, which can also be a useful recruitment tool in itself.

Pat Brennan-Barrett, Principal of Northampton College, says, “It’s vital we understand the needs of our local businesses and work closely with them to help deliver their future workforce. We know many industries are experiencing a skills gap and we want to hear from businesses directly about how we can collaborate to help them to fill that gap and produce a pipeline of ambitious, talented young people, ready to hit the ground running and make a lasting impression in the workplace.”

The Colleges of South East Midlands Group says FE is a great untapped resource, largely because of the lack of wider understanding of how colleges can help to boost business.

Barnfield Principal Cath Gunn says, “We work with many employers across a wide range of sectors. They often ask for help filling vacancies or training staff. Employers also assist us with our curriculum in some really important ways: from giving guidance on skills needs which informs our strategic decisions about curriculum; helping to upskill our teachers with the latest industry knowledge and techniques, to working with curriculum staff to design, deliver and assess student projects. Employers who work with us report it helps them to recruit the high-quality staff they need. We welcome contact from any employers who are not yet benefitting from this.”

Businesses that want to find out more about what colleges can do for them should go to www.deliveringskills.co.uk

 

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