The Minister for Apprenticeship and Skills, Gillian Keegan MP, visited Chesterfield College virtually last week (Thursday, 28th January).
During the visit, she praised leaders of the college for the work they are undertaking and confirmed that the strategic direction of the organisation meets the ambitions of the Government’s vision for further education, and the role colleges will play in future skills development across the UK.
Local MPs, Toby Perkins, Lee Rowley and Mark Fletcher attended the visit, and pledged their support for the college and the vital role it plays in the development of local communities.
They also praised the college for the work it had undertaken before and during the pandemic.
The visitors explored how the college supports employers, students and apprentices whilst also discussing the challenges and opportunities facing the further education sector.
Topics for discussion included how the college is addressing local skills needs, creatively developing the curriculum, adapting to meet financial constraints, and responding to meet the needs of students and apprentices in lockdown.
Julie Richards, Principal and Chief Executive of the Chesterfield College Group explained: “Our vision is to be recognised as an outstanding college by the communities we serve. We equip our students and apprentices with the skills, knowledge and behaviours they need for success in both their career and personal life.
“The college aims to be the first choice for education and skills in our local area, equipping individuals and employers with the skills they need both now and in the future, supporting our economy to grow and prosper.
“We are making significant progress in realising our vision and the proposals set out in the recently announced FE White Paper places the college in a very favourable position to address the ambitions of Government.
“However, to support the growth and development of people through further education we need parity of funding with schools and support to ensure both young people and adults can access the skills they need for a bright and prosperous future.”
Gillian Keegan MP said: “It was great to be able to virtually visit Chesterfield College to hear how they are supporting learners to build the skills they need to be successful in their future careers.
“I really enjoyed speaking to students Jack and Georgie, who have so much enthusiasm for their studies, and have continued to work hard during the lockdown to develop their skills and knowledge.”
The Minister met a student and an apprentice during the visit and asked about their experiences of learning with the college. Beauty Therapy student, Georgie McGregor and Electrical Installation Apprentice, Jack Harris who is completing his apprenticeship at the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire, explained how the college is helping them to realise their ambitions.
The Minister asked them how lockdown was affecting their learning and what opportunities had arisen. She also asked about careers advice and the importance of supporting young people into the most appropriate study options.
Georgie told the Minister: “The college has a great programme to advise students of our careers options. We are provided with advice and guidance relating to the different routes open to us when we go out to the big wide world. Employers take part on our online learning which helps us to understand how to apply our skills in industry.”
“We are currently focusing on theory as part of the Level 3 course, by working online with live lessons delivered by our tutors. Getting the theory done means as soon as we can get back in the classroom we can use the knowledge we are gaining now to support us as we develop our practical skills.”
Jack explained how he spent his time during furlough getting ahead in his studies and completing 10 practice papers for his exam. His hard work paid off and he achieved a pass of 98%.
He told the Minister how the college has supported him as he has progressed through the levels of study and how hard he is working to fulfil his ambition to become Head Electrician at the Chatsworth Estate.
The Minister praised Jack and Georgie for their attitude and using their time wisely in lockdown.
She wished them well in their studies and promised to return to visit in person as soon as she is able, asking if Georgie would do her make-up when she comes to see the facilities and more of the initiatives she had heard about during her virtual visit.