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In January 2021, the Department for Education released a White Paper entitled ‘Skills for Jobs’.

These reforms to post-16 technical education and training were made with the intention of supporting people to develop the skills needed to get good jobs and improve national productivity. They might not be common knowledge in workplaces just yet, but they will impact on the way many businesses evolve in the years to come.

Locally, Northampton College is at the heart of embedding these reforms into its curriculum - ensuring that study programmes match the ambitions and demands of the county’s employers.

The next few years are likely to focus on adult and higher technical qualifications, alongside further consolidation of the vocational and technical qualification landscape as T Levels are fully rolled out.

Northampton College aims to play a full part in helping adults to get the skills that they need and work with employers to help them attract the skilled staff they need to thrive and grow. In doing so, the college will make a vital contribution to both the community and the local and national economy.

Leading this change is newly appointed Vice Principal for Skills and Adult Curriculum, Phil O’Hara.

Having run his own electrical engineering business before moving into education more than 20 years ago, Phil is perfectly placed to balance the needs of business with the demands of the curriculum. He is looking forward to forging strong relationships with employers and ensuring a smooth pathway from the classroom to the workplace for a new generation of students.

He said: “Over the next few years, with rises in the cost-of-living and a predicted recession on the horizon, more people are likely to lose their jobs and will need to re-skill or up-skill to gain sustainable employment.

“Boosting Britain’s skills is more important than ever before, and we remain determined to build an inclusive talent pipeline of people with the attributes and skills required for our modern, dynamic, and competitive economy. We are preparing the leaders and employers of the future. Our students will be the UK’s new workforce. They will be the citizens who find solutions.

“It’s so important that we understand precisely what employers need in their business so we can produce the right people for the right jobs. We work closely with SEMLEP to understand the needs of the local labour market and they have identified five priority areas we are working to; supply chain logistics, business admin, digital, health and manufacturing.”

The college has recently launched a new course in international supply chain logistics which aims to demystify the sector, shining a light on much-needed skills such as IT, management skills and business admin rather than focusing purely on assumed roles such as fork-lift driving and warehousing.

T Levels have been launched in nursing and childcare, while further T Levels are due in business admin, on-site construction, digital skills, engineering and civil engineering.

Employers have played a key role in developing the content for these new qualifications but, as Phil explains, their involvement doesn’t stop there. He added: “Having helped us understand what we need to include in the courses, we now need employers to create opportunities for students to experience their business.

“Part of the requirement for T Levels is students have a minimum of 45 days of work placement over a two-year period. We need employers to help us fulfil that and create openings for students to come in and experience their workplace.

“Part of my role will be to get out and about meeting business leaders, forging strong relationships and making sure that the college and our students are playing a major part in helping companies recover from the perfect storm of Brexit, COVID and the cost-of-living crisis.

“I’ve been very much campus-based since arriving at Northampton College seven years ago so I’m really looking forward to getting out there and meeting people face-to-face.

“Northamptonshire is a great place to do business with one of the fastest growing economies outside of London. We have so many fantastic employers here and I really want to see the college and its students embedded across multiple sectors.

“There’s a real entrepreneurial spirit here, with Northamptonshire home to a vibrant and thriving SME base. We are proud to be ‘the college in the community’ and play our part in making Northamptonshire a trailblazing economic powerhouse, meeting the skills needs identified by SEMLEP and working closely with businesses to create a study programme that delivers a generation of hungry, workplace-ready employees who we hope will be the employers of the future.”

Northampton College is encouraging employers to visit the college to talk to students about their company, their needs and potential work placement programmes. For more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.