Month October 2020


NCG Responds to Commission on the College of the Future

Liz Bromley, CEO of NCG commented on the report by the Commission on the College of the Future:

“This report could not come at a more critical and relevant moment. As the country prepares to greet a range of unprecedented challenges it is more obvious than ever that colleges – with their deep community links and range of partnerships – will be a cornerstone of future prosperity and mobility.

“In particular, we welcome the report’s badly needed focus on lifelong learning. As our society and economy are changed by COVID-19, digital transformation and an ageing population, new systems and ways of thinking will be desperately needed to support learning and re-training for people of all ages and at every stage of life. This is something NCG Colleges are already engaged in and we are grateful for the practical recommendations in the Commission’s extensive report”.

College of the Future UK Wide Final Report (English) from College of the Future

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Colleges Week 2020 – How NCG Colleges Came Together to Create National Impact During the Covid-19 Crisis

By Chris Payne, Deputy CEO, NCG

One of the key messages I always take from Colleges Week is the important role that colleges play at a local and regional level – as anchor institutions in their local civic infrastructure.  We are so important to our individual areas, not only because of the education and training opportunities we offer, but because of the impact we can have on our communities in many other ways. Colleges offer so much more than education and the extraordinary events this year has made that clearer than ever.

As a national college group, NCG is in a fortunate position where our colleges can not only work locally with their key employers, local leaders and within their local communities to make that local impact, but they can amplify that impact through coming together to collaborate, innovate, problem-solve and support each other. That collaboration is such an important part of the work that we do and allows us to have impact on a national scale.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, as colleges across NCG closed their doors and moved to remote teaching and working, I was moved by the two sides of that coin.  Firstly in being humbled by the different ways that students and colleagues from each NCG college quickly assembled to support their local communities.  But, critically, how colleagues came together nationally to support each other, leverage expertise and share their problems.  As I was told more than once, there was never a better time to be part of a national family.

Many of our degree students in Newcastle College University Centre were called up to work in frontline roles at the height of the crisis. Whether they were working in care homes or hospital wards, students provided critical care to the ill and the elderly while working in difficult conditions and under extreme pressure, all while completing their degree studies.

And they weren’t the only NCG students working to make a difference.

Stephanie Ogundolie, an Access to Nursing student at Southwark College, has worked as a Healthcare Assistant at Bupa Meadbank throughout the outbreak. She continued her studies online while juggling her work to support some of our most vulnerable members of society and look after her own family.

Stephanie said: “Working at the care home during the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging but also a privilege. I’m pleased to support the residents with the knowledge and skills I’ve gained in my course at Southwark College – the experience is something I will always remember and take forward into the future.”

In Lewisham, our Health and Social Care students were able to complete their work placements during lockdown, working with Lewisham Local to reduce the impact of isolation on vulnerable people in their community.  Assisting with food shopping and deliveries, taking the time to call people and help prevent loneliness, students in Lewisham made a real difference in people’s lives at such a critical time.

Deljona Gjomaka, a Health and Social Care student at Lewisham said: “My work placement was a great experience for me. I was able to help my community with the knowledge and skills I’ve developed on my course, and gained a thorough understanding of the impacts the lockdown can cause on mental health.”

Carlisle College took a slightly different but ambitious approach to reduce the negative impact of Covid-19 on young people and their career prospects, by launching a ‘100 in 100’ project with Carlisle City Council.

Working with the council, strategic partners and local employers, the College aimed to secure 100 apprenticeships for young people, encouraging businesses to take advantage of the government’s incentives for employers taking on new apprentices before the end of January 2021.

This is a fantastic example of a further education college wanting to do as much as they can to support young people and businesses within their community, and despite those challenging economic circumstances, the team at Carlisle exceeded their target and have secured 177 apprenticeships with local employers.

This achievement has not only given 177 young people a brilliant start but has also given businesses valuable employees who can help them to rebuild and recover after this crisis.

Every single one of our colleges responded to the nationwide PPE shortage to donate huge amounts of vital supplies and resources to their local NHS and community health providers. With extensive amounts of PPE readily available across our college’s health and social care training facilities, it was clear that it could be put to better use by organisations on the front line.

I could go on and provide even more examples and individual stories of sacrifice, commitment and social action from across our group. With seven colleges spread out across the country, we are a key part of providing education and skills training to learners, apprentices and employers.

NCG’s mission is to enable social mobility and economic prosperity through the education that we deliver, but by sharing our extensive resource and expertise across all of our colleges, the collective impact that we have across the UK adds up to even more than that.

Separately, all of our colleges work hard to make a real impact on learners and communities in their individual regions. Together, we accomplish real change for young people, communities and economies across the country. That is the real power of a national college group and that is why we back Colleges Week to celebrate the amazing work of our sector.

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Colleges Week 2020 – Taking Our College to the Community

Asfa Sohail, Principal of Lewisham College talks about the role of colleges and the important part they play in supporting the lives of those in their local community.

Colleges Week is always a positive platform for the further education sector and its stakeholders. A chance to come together to really champion all of the fantastic work which goes on every single day. It’s also a great opportunity to take stock of the last few months and to recognise the contributions of our colleagues and students outside of their day to day teaching and learning.

This year, the theme “supporting people and supporting communities” was something that really struck a chord with me.

Immediately I knew I had to contribute, to demonstrate that colleges offer so much more than further education, to show that every single day we enhance the lives of those within our locality.

Like every other business, colleges have had to move quickly to adapt to a ‘new normal’ for our colleagues and our learners. It has not been easy but despite these difficulties, colleges have stood up and gone the extra mile to help others. It hasn’t taken a pandemic to ignite this community spirit – it is something that has always been an important part of the role that colleges play.

Lewisham College is renowned for being a community college, but I could see it had so much more to give before I arrived as Principal in early 2019.

The potential was clear; a college rooted within a diverse and vibrant community with access to resources, partners and expertise – we needed to bring all of this together to offer more to the people and the businesses around us.

It perhaps may have been easier to focus only on internal matters, but I knew that we had a duty as a college to re-engage and ‘do more’ with our community groups sooner rather than later.

With that in mind, I began to lead a team to work within the heart of our community. At the time it was tough to balance the demands of a new role whilst trying to ensure we could make an immediate impact with those outside of our college.  I saw it as my own personal responsibility to initiate relationships and meet with groups across the Borough to understand their challenges and to see how the college could find the right solutions and the right support.

I often talk about ‘taking the college to the community’ and that’s exactly what myself and my colleagues did from the offset. Yes, the college is a physical building, but its assets are our students and colleagues who have a connection and a sense of belonging to the Lewisham Borough.

We needed to formalise partnerships, identify long term strategic goals and ensure these weren’t just one-off initiatives.

Colleges have a wealth of expertise, not only in personnel but with our infrastructure, networks and access to resources. This means that when building up a partnership we’re able to offer a variety of solutions that can be tailored to the needs of our community. We all want to make a difference and that’s what has been the single most important factor in making this approach a success.

We know we can’t do this in isolation and that’s why we team up with Lewisham Borough Council to support their recovery plan; everything we do feeds into the success of the bigger picture.

Speaking on the partnership, Pinaki Ghoshal, Executive Director for Children & Young People at Lewisham Borough Council commented: “Lewisham College has a long-standing tradition of providing education and much more in the heart of Lewisham.

“The college works hard to offer exciting and relevant opportunities for young people and adults which support them on their learning journeys, particularly in these difficult times.  I look forward to a long and successful partnership with the college and the future initiatives Asfa and her team are planning.”

I’m proud to say we now have over 30 strategic partnerships with community groups, housing associations, charities and support organisations, and we’re working towards developing so many more. These partnerships are diverse in nature and we commit to ongoing support so that it becomes mutually beneficially for the organisation and our students, both of which benefit from a truly supportive environment.

We do something different with every single one. From colleagues delivering life skills tutoring sessions to young homeless women, to students supporting mental health charities through work experience; it really is a bespoke and individual programme.

It’s hard to pick stand out examples but I’m particularly proud of the college’s work with Phoenix Community Housing, a not-for-profit resident-led housing association based in South London.

Our students took over their community venue and provided beauty treatments to the Phoenix House residents in a “Makeover Takeover”. A fantastic example of our students going out into the neighbourhood, using the skills they have developed on their course whilst enhancing the lives and experiences of local residents – making our community brighter.

Phoenix Housing also recruited a group of young students with learning disabilities for a nine-month work placement; a wonderful opportunity for young people to gain independent life skills with the aim of gaining full-time employment.

You can begin to see how these relationships are mutually beneficial for our partners and Lewisham College – and in turn contribute to a thriving community within Lewisham.

Jim Ripley, Chief Executive of Phoenix Housing Association commented on the Makeover Takeover: “Thanks to your amazing team and students, who spent yesterday pampering residents and staff. It was a total inspiration!

“It’s really good to see the partnership between Phoenix Housing and Lewisham College growing.”

Whilst we take the college to the community, we also bring the community to us. Our resources and infrastructure allow us to utilise our facilities outside of the curriculum calendar to support our networks in a range of different ways.

The 999 Club is a local charity whose centre in Deptford Broadway is available for the homeless to have breakfast, read the paper and get online. The charity takes in visitors in various situations, from rough sleepers to sofa surfers, providing services to help them get back on their feet.

We understand that individuals often need a confidence boost and wrap around support to enable them to move forward, and colleges can help people do just that.

One of our projects has enabled local disadvantaged residents to take part in an art project in conjunction with the V&A Museum. The project gave access to the college’s carpentry workshops, where residents upcycled used exhibit packing crates into furniture to be displayed at the London Design Festival.

Tim Fallon, CEO of the 999 Club commented on the project: “We’re hugely grateful to all our partners, particularly the V&A and Lewisham College, who have enabled what was an ambitious idea to become an amazing reality.”

I could go further to talk about the time ESOL students raised over £600 for the Ruth Hayman Trust through a food fundraiser. I could talk in great detail about our health and social care students and how they worked voluntarily during lockdown to support Lewisham Local, delivering food parcels and making daily phone calls to those most vulnerable. All amazing examples of amazing people doing everything they can to help those who need it most.

Deljona Gjomaka is one student who supported the Lewisham Local initiative. She explained: “I was able to help my community with the knowledge and skills I’ve developed on my course, and gained a thorough understanding of the impact the lockdown can cause on mental health.”

These are just a handful of examples, but all of which make me extremely proud to be leading a college that has the needs of the local community in its DNA.  I’m pleased to have made some really positive steps over the last 18 months, however this is just the beginning.

National Colleges Week amplifies the amazing and selfless work that goes on in our sector.

As part of a leading college group NCG, and with a clear direction of travel, we’re able to share expertise and spark curiosity with our fellow colleges to find solutions to the most complex problems – we see this as part of our civic responsibility.

NCG’s mission is to be the UK’s leading college group recognised for our local impact, national influence and reach. The work which we’re undertaking at Lewisham College really focuses on ‘impact’. I look forward to continuing our journey to help revive our communities in all kinds of creative and innovative ways.

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Colleges Week 2020 – How Newcastle College is Innovating to Develop North East Talent

By Jon Ridley, Vice Principal (Newcastle College) and Executive Director HE (NCG) and Andrew Esson, Director of Industrial Strategy (Newcastle College) 

When you think of ‘innovation’ and ‘designing the future’, a further education college may not be the first thing that springs to mind. So, it may come as a surprise to find out that Newcastle College (and its University Centre) is taking huge strides to develop a talented workforce for the region through innovative qualifications and advanced technologies.

We’ve always been passionate about driving talent and skills that translate to real careers and meet the needs of employers here in the North East. We achieve that in a number of ways.

We’re part of NCG, one of the largest education groups in the country. The aim of the group as a collective is to provide support for our respective regions and make local impact that together will make a big difference on a national scale. Being part of that group allows us to share resources and best practice, celebrate each other’s successes and support each other to innovate and grow.

Our NCG Chief Executive Liz Bromley sits on the Business Growth Board of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which allows Newcastle College University Centre to have a strong voice, play a central role and ensure that we stay aligned with the current and future needs of the region – so that we can develop our own plans to support them.

We also work closely with industry leaders. Whether that’s supporting collectives such as Dynamo and Digital Union, forging partnerships with engineering employers such as the Port of Blyth to share facilities, or creating a Digital Advisory Board to shape our course content, those relationships are central to everything we do and they help us to design and develop qualifications that offer the right skills and experience.

Finally, we invest in our facilities so that our students learn in real working environments, using the latest equipment and technologies that they’ll find in industry.

None of that may sound particularly ground-breaking, but what it enables us to do is develop innovative solutions to skills shortages that may not even exist yet. By working closely with industry and local leaders, we can identify the skills and experience that are in real demand and respond by creating unique opportunities to gain those skills.

Just one example of that is the recent launch of our brand-new Foundation Degree in Engineering with Applied Digital Technologies. The two-year course is a direct response to our industrial engagement identifying an increase in local manufacturers adopting emerging industrial digital technology, creating a digital skills gap in the sector.

Developed with the help of our Digital Advisory Board, Procter and Gamble and the expertise of local engineering specialists Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd (SMD) and Metrology Software Products (MSP), it is tailor made to meet the demands of the sector and supports the region’s Local Industrial Strategy for Advanced Manufacturing by linking engineering principles with digital skills, to equip a new generation of highly-skilled and digitally-enabled engineers.

Last year, that same Digital Advisory Board helped us to recognise that our region’s digital sector needed an effective way to recruit talent who are ready to work and contribute quickly.

Working in partnership with digital powerhouse Accenture, we developed and launched the Digital and Technology Solutions degree apprenticeship. The first of its kind in the UK, this apprenticeship is a unique fast-track programme that helps apprentices to become fully qualified in just two years, rather than the traditional three.

Just a few weeks ago, the government announced the ‘Build Back Greener’ plan, promising substantial investment into renewable energies and the offshore wind sector. This is something that has been at the top of the region’s priorities for years and Newcastle College’s Energy Academy has been open since 2012.

The relationships that we’ve forged within the sector have led to amazing opportunities for our students training to be engineers within renewable energy and ensure that we are ready to respond to a growing demand for skills training in the industry.

Our students have access to real working facilities and industry leaders at Port of Blyth, and train using world-leading technology at our Energy Academy, (where the world’s most immersive Hybrid Reality (iHR) wind turbine training platform is housed), thanks to our partnerships with ORE Catapult and the Port.

These are just a few examples of the courses we’re building to train and upskill talent to meet the unique demands of the current economic climate.

Our approach really is about developing real and powerful solutions to new and future problems, supporting our region, our local employers and our young people. It enables us to offer our students an educational experience that will put them in the best position possible when they leave us, whether that is through further education, higher education or an apprenticeship – all of them benefit from hands-on learning and fantastic support, alongside work-based opportunities and industry-linked activities.

We’re changing the face of education so that it really meets the future needs of employers in the North East and helps people learn the skills they need, quickly and efficiently.

Love Colleges Week is all about demonstrating and celebrating the work that colleges do. As we move through this current crisis and look ahead to what our region and our country will look like in six or twelve months, it is colleges that will step up to skill, reskill and upskill to support our recovery and rebuild and we are pleased to say that Newcastle College is perfectly placed and ready to do this for the North East.

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Colleges Week 2020 – How Newcastle College supports the North East’s Green Energy Sector

By Alan Goundry – Head of Energy at Newcastle College.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister announced a plan to make substantial investment in clean energy and an aim to power all UK homes by wind energy by 2030, putting a green recovery at the heart of the government’s post-coronavirus economic strategy.

As Head of Energy at Newcastle College, I welcome the ‘Build Back Greener’ plan and the opportunities it will bring for the North East – a region central to the UK’s offshore wind sector.

Further investment in the industry will create thousands of skilled jobs over the next ten years. Fantastic news. But it comes with challenges that only colleges like ours can overcome.

In July, I addressed a government roundtable on ‘Skills for a Green Recovery and Net Zero’.

Hosted by Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, the virtual meeting brought together voices from the world of energy to discuss the challenges of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

My contribution to the discussion focused on the growing skills gap in low carbon industries and the role that colleges will play in training and retraining the right people to fill that gap – which is vital if we are to achieve this ambitious target.

Offshore wind and renewable energy is one of the North East’s fastest growing industries and a priority area for continued investment and growth, even before the latest government plans were announced.

Newcastle College is already leading the charge in training a new generation of engineers for the sector here in our region. We have invested into our dedicated Energy Academy since it opened in 2012 and me and my team have worked hard to forge valuable partnerships with local industry that really benefit students.

Our students benefit from state-of-the-art training facilities, including one of the world’s most advanced immersive Hybrid Reality (iHR) wind turbine training platforms thanks to our relationship with ORE Catapult. They also have access to a real subsea trenching machine and port facilities, thanks to an innovative partnership with Port of Blyth. This is vital training infrastructure that would otherwise cost millions of pounds to invest in.

In order to ensure these future engineers are equipped with the right skills, we ensure that all of our tutors have relevant industry experience and we are lucky to have a talented and experienced team here at the Energy Academy. It can be something that is difficult to do – persuading those with high-paying industry salaries to turn to teaching – but it is vital and this is an area in which colleges would really benefit from government support.

The College is here not only to train the next generation of engineers for the industry, but to help upskill those already working within the industry. We sit at the heart of the North East’s energy hub and we work closely with our neighbours to ensure their workforce remains at the top of their game.

Finally, it’s important that those currently at risk of losing their jobs within related sectors (particularly the oil and gas industry) are able to transition to roles within renewable energy. Further education colleges are the right place to quickly and efficiently retrain these already skilled and experienced engineers, we just need the resources to create and deliver the right courses.

Newcastle College is part of NCG, a group of seven colleges spread throughout the UK. NCG has a commitment to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030. Collectively we recognise that climate change is affecting everyone throughout the world and we must play our part in helping tackling this global problem.

We are ready to support the ‘Build Back Greener’ plan and achieve net zero, by ensuring the engineers of the future are work-ready and equipped with the skills and experience demanded by this growing industry. With further government support, we can ensure we continue to develop the right training to be delivered by the right people.

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Colleges Week 2020 – Colleges and Employers Working in Partnership

Scott Bullock of Newcastle College talks about the impact of colleges and employers working together on local communities and economies.

Working in the FE sector, I have always been passionate about the difference that good education and skills training can make. I have seen first-hand the impact that colleges can have on individuals, on businesses of all sizes and on our local communities – and that is following many years of underinvestment.

That’s why I am such a big supporter of Colleges Week, which has always championed the vital role of colleges and campaigned for further funding. This year, the value of the work that we do is clearer than ever.

I became Interim Principal of Newcastle College earlier this year, just in time to support our students through the many delays and disappointments of August’s results days. My first few months have been spent navigating the safe reopening of campus for our entire community and supporting colleagues, students and our local businesses through this ongoing crisis.

Looking ahead, we’ll continue that support which is integral to rebuilding the North East economy not only post-Covid, but post-Brexit too. As part of NCG, our Chief Executive Liz Bromley sits on the board of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and that ensures that our voice is heard and that we remain aligned to the LEP’s vision for the region and to the skills and sector demands here.

Being part of NCG means we are one of seven colleges across the country that each work in close partnership with employers and local industry to offer education and skills training that leads to real employment opportunities. We each have local priorities, but together we share expertise and help each other to innovate, so that we can accomplish real change for young people, communities and our local economies across the UK

Working together makes it easier to do the work that we do, but we certainly couldn’t do it without our employer partners. Newcastle College enjoys fantastic partnerships with employers across the North East and they are our biggest strength – vital in helping us to develop courses and qualifications which give our students the skills and experience that employers will need.

We’ve been working with Newcastle United Foundation for a number of years to combine education and sports training, delivering Level 2 and 3 courses that allow students to play at a high standard in a national football league while gaining an important qualification for their futures.

Now, we have expanded that partnership and committed to becoming the Foundation’s Strategic Learning Partner for the next three years, with the aim of strengthening our local communities, helping disadvantaged people to develop new skills across a number of growth sectors in the North East, including digital and construction.

Unfortunately, it is likely that our region, and in particular our young people, will be hit the hardest by the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit. As an FE provider, we want to ensure that we are offering every learning opportunity possible to our community, helping them to learn the skills that will be in demand in the coming years.

Working with Newcastle United Foundation will not only help us to create these new courses, but help us to reach people of all ages and backgrounds across the entire region who may be currently disengaged from education and unaware of the opportunities open to them.

That includes the possibility of new adult education programmes, brand new BTEC qualifications in e-sports and coaching, apprenticeships and targeted work placements and traineeships to help bridge the gap between education and employment. We’ve also jointly committed to creating 40 apprenticeships over the next three years to offer real training and employment opportunities within the partnership.

Partnerships like this make a real impact on local people and local economies by creating real job opportunities and enabling social mobility. They require commitment from both employers and colleges and of course they require real funding too, which limits just how many of these valuable partnerships we can forge.

The government has recently hinted at investment in further education, with the announcement of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee and incentives for employers hiring new apprentices in its Plan for Jobs, which is rightly focused on skills.

I can only hope that this translates to the government recognising the true value of further education and vocational training and I will remain quietly hopeful that the upcoming FE White Paper will deliver on those promises.

In particular, I hope that it recognises the crucial role that colleges play regionally and provides improved funding flexibilities so that colleges can focus on the skills needed to aid the recovery of our local economies and support our local communities.

In the meantime, I will pledge my support for Colleges Week 2020 and encourage every business owner to do likewise.

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