Last month college principals, staff and governors were recognised in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours.
College staff work tirelessly to provide high-quality education and training for their students and they deserve recognition for their efforts.
AoC spoke to two college executives who were awarded OBEs. Gill Alton, Chief Executive of Grimsby Institute and Julia Evans, Vice Chair of Leeds College of Building (LCB), gave their thoughts below.
How did it feel to be honoured?
GA: I was completely overwhelmed and enormously grateful to all my colleagues who have worked tirelessly to create an outstanding college. I also feel very privileged and excited to be invited to the Palace.
JE: The whole thing came as a complete but wonderful surprise and I have been absolutely overwhelmed and touched by the kind messages I have received. My mother died about a week after the award was announced which of course makes it more poignant but she was very chuffed.
Biggest success for the college?
GA: To be awarded “outstanding” by Ofsted in May 2017. It’s the recognition my colleagues have earned, they go the extra mile every day and I’m incredibly proud of them.
JE: I am very proud to have been involved with the college for many years. Construction and engineering are inspiring subjects in a very challenging context. It’s easy to reflect on the opening of the new building at Hunslett soon to be joined by its new ‘sibling’ as the college’s biggest success and these new facilities will be very important to the college’s future development but most important is the day-to-day work with students young and old, students with challenging educational needs and those with tricky domestic situations who still come into learn and prepare themselves for a fulfilling career.
Areas to focus on moving forward?
GA: We are in the process of creating a new campus in Scarborough and new builds always take time and energy, but it will be great to open the new facilities next year. We are also working closely with a couple of colleges through the Strategic College Improvement Fund so we’re rooting for them to get a good Ofsted report. Our highly successful 14- to16 school is expanding further and now has the second largest year intake in the Grimsby area. It’s heart-warming to see 14-year-olds fully engaged and loving vocational education. We are also part of two Institute of Technology bids so lots of work to do to get them through stage 2 to receive much needed capital money.
JE: I have a special interest in the achievement of competency in Maths and English having been a volunteer literacy tutor when a student myself. (I am eternally grateful in my own work for the introduction of automatic spell checkers!) However, the college has focused enormous efforts in this filed and is working hard with students at all levels to help people fulfil their potential.
FE in general still needs to have the ability to navigate the increasingly difficult mechanism for funding. My finance colleagues have a very difficult job and need to remain financially viable with most income lines flat-lining or reducing whilst still meeting the needs of industry.
Opportunities for the FE sector?
GA: We’re always on the look-out for new opportunities which align closely with our Strategic Plan and enable us to expand our delivery of high-quality education. We’re interested in Batchelor Degree Awarding Powers, building on our Foundation Degree Awarding Powers, to give us more control over our destiny in Higher education. Institutes of Technology are a great opportunity for attracting investment in new curriculum and capital funding. Prison contracts are out to tender now and we believe we can add real value so we’re going to give the tender our best shot. We scrutinise all opportunities and cherry pick the ones which align with our plans.
JE: The opportunities are enormous and not only for the essential world of FE but for the HE sector as well. The college offers courses in both sectors all within the speciality of construction and engineering and finds this enriched context stimulating and endlessly fascinating. LCB prepares people for great careers in many different roles and is very much a sector for both men and women. If you want an intriguing, stimulating and fulfilling career then LCB is the place to get the education and training to get started.