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Employer partnerships to deliver work-ready skills: a Bolton College and NHS case study
FE colleges make an enormous contribution to our local communities. At Bolton College we successfully do this in many ways, and our latest is one that we’re very excited about.
Our Digital HTQ is a course we run in partnership with the University of Bolton. We have made it entirely unique, with built-in flexibility to benefit both learners and employers. This partnership with the University allows us to tailor the contents and modes of assessment within the course to the needs of local employers who both endorse and benefit from it.
We are establishing a pathway for students that includes, firstly, understanding the demands of the local job market and, secondly, providing students with the chance to utilise our connections with local employers, enabling them to pursue careers in these specific industries.
In doing this, we are establishing a pathway for students that includes, firstly, understanding the demands of the local job market and, secondly, providing students with the chance to utilise our connections with local employers, enabling them to pursue careers in these specific industries once they’ve completed their qualification with us.
The assignment briefs, for example, are therefore truly employer led, utilising practical-based scenarios that students will face in the workplace, ensuring they develop the skills to help them think and act independently. Nurturing this independence is critical and offers our students a solid foundation from which they can comfortably and confidently enter the world of work. It equally gives employers the assurance that their needs will be met with a cohort of work-ready people.
A great example of our local employer collaboration in action is our partnership with NHS Bolton. On the T-Levels programme alone we’ve had several Bolton College T-Level students undertake placements with the NHS across an array of departments, giving our students an incredible breadth of experience.
NHS Bolton is a great example of an engaged local employer, showing students an exciting vision of the rich variety of job pathways available on our doorstep. With their frequent visits on the College campus, they deliver masterclasses as well as providing workplace visits, ultimately getting to know the learners in the programme whilst promoting the range of job opportunities available to them.
Another particularly exciting work stream we have undertaken with NHS Bolton is to tackle the ambitious target to digitise the operations of the Royal Bolton Hospital - one of Greater Manchester’s major foundation trusts. We’re now working collaboratively with on an employer-led project which includes undertaking a skills audit to understand what qualifications current staff have and where they might need assistance in attaining further competencies, allowing our students to demonstrate what they’ve learned so far.
NHS Bolton is a great example of how we work with major local employers to develop courses to directly address local skills needs, current and future. This is only possible through close collaboration between us, the employers and the University, to create flexible courses such as our HTQ. We are really proud to see this in action and, as the process is replicable across any sector or subject matter, we see enormous potential.
Catherine Langstreth, Head of English, Maths and Digital, explains the journey the college has taken to engage local employers in the co-design of the qualification to ensure it mutually benefits employers with vacancies and skills gaps and learners seeking professional employment in the digital sector.