Staff and students at Northampton College have called on the Government to ‘Love Our Colleges’ as part of a national campaign lobbying for fairer funding for Further Education.
The Government has recently committed an extra £400million for the FE sector, but while this windfall has been broadly welcomed, there are concerns it simply doesn’t go far enough and still leaves colleges as the poor relation in the education system, lagging behind schools and universities.
Colleges currently receive £4,000 funding for each 16 to 18-year-old student, while schools receive £5,000 for someone of the same age. The extra funding will push this figure up to £4,188, but falls someway short of the parity the FE sectorcraves.
To raise awareness of the funding shortfall, students at Northampton College have been showcasing the work they do and the opportunities they are given by taking a more vocational route than is provided by mainstream schools.
Deputy principal of Northampton College, Patrick Leavey, said: “The wider FE sector has been subject to a decade of enforced savings and efficiencies, having to cope with a real-terms cut of 30 per cent over the past 10 years.
“With a skills shortage in a number of industrial and commercial sectors affecting the UK economy, FE is finally making a stand and calling for urgent investment from Government. The £400 million pledged so far is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t go far enough.
“For too long colleges have faced the financial challenge of preserving the same high quality of teaching and learning in our classrooms, studios and workshops while not seeing any extra income. With better investment, we would have the ability to do even more to nurture talent in our most in-demand technical and professional skills.”
As part of a week-long series of events to back the official ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign, local schools were invited to Booth Lane for a series of science and space themed taster sessions run by the UK Space Academy.
Students were able to learn more about the science behind rockets, comets and planets during the sessions, which formed part of the college’s ongoing ‘Ignite The Spark’ programme – an initiative to attract the next generation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) professionals.
Mr Leavey added: “The week showcased the great work colleges are involved with on a daily basis, helping to transform the lives of young people and adults, shape their communities and boost the local economy. By providing technical, vocational and higher education, basic skills and lifelong learning, colleges are an essential resource and need to be funded fairly.”
The Love Our Colleges campaign is a partnership between the Association of Colleges (AoC), National Union of Students (NUS), Association of College and School Leaders (ASCL), University and Colleges Union (UCU), Unison, GMB, TUC, and the National Education Union (NEU).
A new state-of-the-art learning facility has been hailed as ‘the perfect place’ to tackle a severe skills shortage and build a better future for the construction industry in Northamptonshire.
Northampton College’s impressive £4.75million Advanced Construction Engineering (ACE) Centre, built at Booth Lane campus, was unveiled on Friday, 20 September 2019 at an official opening. It will help train the next generation of highly skilled construction professionals including builders, plumbers and decorators and teach pioneering new techniques aimed at equipping the workforce of the future with the very latest skills.
Principal Pat Brennan-Barrett was joined by guest of honour, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom MP, fellow Northamptonshire MPs Michael Ellis, Andrew Lewer and Chris Heaton-Harris and representatives from contractors Kier and the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, which helped fund the project through its Skills Capital Fund.
She said: “The ACE Centre is a commitment to providing the very best educational facilities for our young people, an investment in the next generation of workers and the business leaders of tomorrow.
“It is the perfect place to ensure a pipeline of highly skilled, high quality students, with the technical abilities required by the to fill the skills gap that currently exists; providing a sustainable, long term and modern workforce to the construction industry and related services.”
Alongside courses which focus on craft skills there will also be courses at Level 3 for those looking for supervisory, technician or management careers in the sector, such as in Civil Engineering, Building Services Engineering, or Project Management.
Andrea Leadsom, Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, said: “We’re committed to boosting economic growth across the whole of the UK and building a Britain fit for the future.
“The new Advanced Construction Engineering centre with its state-of-the-art new facilities is sure to have a lasting impact on the construction and engineering sectors of Northampton and beyond.
“The £2.25 million Local Growth Fund contribution will enable those enrolled at Northampton College to learn the pioneering new techniques and skills both they and employers need to boost our economy now and in the future.”
The centre features a revolutionary ‘Digital Lab’ featuring a Virtual Reality classroom, 3D printing facilities and industry-standard workshop equipment and will provide a pipeline of ‘work-ready’ staff for local employers, with dozens of major companies, including the likes of Kier, Bowmer & Kirkland, Metcalfe’s and the Murphy Group, already in place as recognised industry-based partners.
The building was part-funded through external funding from SEMLEP’s Skills Capital Fund.
Judith Barker, director of programmes and governance at SEMLEP, said: “Addressing both the skills gap and the ageing workforce is seen as a top priority within leading construction companies and it’s extremely heartening to see Northampton College’s ACE Centre become a reality.
“This project will have a real impact on the economic wellbeing for Northampton and beyond, creating not just jobs but a highly-skilled workforce equipped with skills to last a lifetime.”
A spokesman for Kier said: “This project has allowed us to help nurture and develop talent in the younger generation where we currently see a skills gap shortage. It will provide essential skills and training to pave the way for a better future for the local construction industry, local people and the local area.”
Prospective students can apply online now for courses at the ACE Centre, including plumbing and heating, painting, decorating and interior design, and carpentry, joinery and theatre/film set production.
Aspiring chefs at Northampton College have been challenged to come up with a dish that awakens the senses as part of a charity dinner raising awareness of visual impairments.
The event, called ‘Dining in the Dark’, is being held at the college’s own restaurant ‘The Lane’ and has been organised by NAB, the sight support charity for Northamptonshire.
Guests will enjoy a lavish dinner created by chefs from The Perfect Country Pub Company and assisted by catering students at Booth Lane. The students have been challenged to come up with ideas for a special amuse bouche which will be served on the night. The dish must focus on other senses, such as sound, touch and smell – making it suitable for anyone with a visual impairment.
Phil Martin, head of hospitality and catering at Northampton College, said: “Dining in the Dark is a brilliant concept and gives our students to think more about the challenges of preparing food for those with limited or no vision. It’s an opportunity for them to get creative and I’m looking forward to tasting what they come up with.”
The students’ creations will be judged later this month with the winning dish served at the dinner on Wednesday, October 2.
Rhian Williams, fundraising manager at NAB, said: “Dining in the Dark promises to be a real insight into how so many with limited vision live their daily lives. It will be a multi-sensory experience to remember and we can’t wait to see what Northampton College students have in store.”
Guests will wear sight loss ‘simulation specs’ to experience what it’s like being blind or partially sighted while Northampton Saints legend Christian Day will give an after-dinner talk followed by a charity auction to raise money for sight loss.
The event is being held in partnership with Tompkins Knight & Son Optometrists, Warners Distillery and Amps Fine Wines.
NAB is sponsoring the new ‘Dining for All’ category at the 2019 Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards, championing venues which go above and beyond to promote inclusivity and accessibility.
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