New Berkeley Green Campus set to supercharge already successful training for work9th February 2016
Those who took advantage of the open day at SGS College's new Berkeley Green Campus – part of a £40million investment – could be forgiven for thinking they were in a brand new college.
To an extent, they were. The much-hyped new campus for South Gloucestershire and Stroud College is being developed into a centre focusing on education, training, business start-up and research facilities with a special focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Hot on its heels will follow a multi-million pound Advanced Renewables Research Centre, already drawing the interest of numerous county firms which view it as a potential source of future talent.
But the college – in particular its Stroud arm which will tie into the new facility – is already shining as one of the biggest providers of apprenticeships in the region, not least down to a dynamic construction skills wing run by George Ridd and his team.
Sara-Jane Watkins, principal of the college – one of the partners in the Gloucestershire Echo, Gloucester Citizen and Stroud Life's Apprentice 1,000 campaign – which aims to encourage and promote the creation of 1,000 apprenticeships in 2016, said: "The college is absolutely focused on growing apprenticeships and we are now the third largest provider in the South West for 16-18 apprenticeships.
"Currently the college starts circa 600 apprentices per year, with around 1,400 apprentices in learning at any one time. Overall success rates are above the national benchmark, with an upward trend. Learner and employer satisfaction is high, as measured by the FE Choices survey."
For Ms Watkins the link to county business is crucial. A successful ambassadors programme – which allows a handpicked group of firms to help shape the training of students, and championed in no small part by lecturer David Quinton – is a key ingredient of the college's success.
"We design all of our full-time curriculum programmes for full-time 16-18 learners as progression pathways into higher education, employment and apprenticeships and support learners to transfer mid-year from full-time study to apprenticeships should they secure employment," said Ms Watkins.
"We have also expanded our apprenticeship provision to embrace higher apprenticeships, where learners can achieve a degree qualification whilst being in employment."
Mr Quinton, who runs the plumbing programme, said: "We know that if a young person comes to us we can guarantee them a good education. We are a good college, but what we like to do is be able to guarantee them a chance of an apprenticeship. We can't say they will get one – but we guarantee them a chance if they work hard."
"For me it is about giving the best opportunity to the students, asking ourselves 'what is the best we can do for them'? For me that is about giving those young people opportunity they might not otherwise have had."