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East Midlands Chamber News

Education Secretary’s fact-finding visit to college

The Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, met young people learning vocational skills and spoke to business chiefs about reforms to technical education as part of a fact-finding mission to West Nottinghamshire College.

It came during a visit to its Derby Road campus, Mansfield, where she saw students hone their talents in its industry-standard training facilities and sought the views of college bosses, politicians, employers and community leaders about ways that education and commerce can work together to provide the workforce of the future, and what businesses need from government to achieve this.

Her visit, on Friday, began with a campus tour by Principal and Chief Executive Dame Asha Khemka, Chair of Governors Nevil Croston and Vice-Chair of the Students’ Union Cameron Moore.

Along the way she met with media production students in the Create hub and was interviewed by 19-year-old Kayla Jameson, which was filmed by learners as part of their coursework, before seeing hair and beauty students work on clients in its commercial salon, Revive.

Education Secretary Justine Greening at West Nottinghamshire CollegeThe visit ended with a discussion with employers, stakeholders, Dame Asha, Mr Croston, members of the college’s senior leadership team, Mr Moore, Mansfield MP Ben Bradley and Mansfield Mayor Kate Allsop in its new £6.5m university centre.

Employer representatives in attendance were Russell Jones - Chairman at Mansfield and Ashfield 2020 business networking group and a partner at Hopkins Solicitors, Hayley Barsby - Chief Executive at Mansfield District Council, John Sankey - MBE, owner of John Sankey Estates Agents and Chairman at the Mansfield BID, Martin Rigley MBE - Managing Director at Lindhurst Engineering, John Kay - Creative Director at Linney Design, David Pearson - Director of Partnerships and Member Services at East Midlands Chamber and entrepreneur Alex Peace-Gadsby, who is also the Scouts Association’s Chief Commissioner of England and a trustee of the Inspire and Achieve Foundation.

Topics discussed included the need to engage businesses in apprenticeship-delivery, the introduction of the Government’s new T-levels and the importance of both raising the aspirations of young people and promoting different educational routes.

Mrs Barsby called for greater collaboration to ensure Mansfield achieved future growth and prosperity, saying “it’s not just about education, it’s about business, career opportunities and what the area has to offer”.

Mr Jones felt more support could be offered to small businesses to encourage them to take on apprentices, and that T-levels must be targeted at young people who would benefit the most from the new vocational routes which encompass work placements, adding a “one-size fits all” approach would not work.

Mayor Allsop suggested tax breaks as a method of incentivising small business to hire apprentices, while Mrs Peace-Gadsby insisted the time had come for apprenticeships to be “really celebrated” and valued as highly as a university education.

Meanwhile, employers had an important role in informing young people about the different educational routes available, said Mr Rigley, who also chairs the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership’s N2 (Nottingham and Nottinghamshire) Skills and Employment board.

Education Secretary Justine Greening MP said: “I was hugely impressed by the students I met at West Nottinghamshire College, which is a college that shares this Government’s ambition to ensure young people have the skills and knowledge that employers and the country need.

“It was great to see first-hand the variety of different routes to skilled employment on offer and I very much hope each of the students I met will go on to have fantastic careers."

Dame Asha Khemka said: “The chance to welcome the Secretary of State reflects the college’s national reputation for high-quality provision, effective partnerships with employers and the crucial role we play as the skills hub within the communities we serve.

“The Minister was very impressed with the energy and application demonstrated by our students and with our state-of-the-art facilities, where they are training for their future careers.

“While the Government’s renewed focus on apprenticeships and high-quality technical education provides huge opportunities for young people and employers alike, it is vital that education-providers and businesses are at the very heart of its policies in order for them to be successful. The Minister’s clear desire to listen to what we had to say and take on board our suggestions shows this is very much the case.

“As such, this was a fantastic opportunity for the college and its partners to shape Government thinking and ensure Whitehall, education and UK plc work together to deliver the outcomes that everybody wants.”

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