Collaborating to build a bright future for further education

Published: June 12, 2020

Telford College has joined forces with 20 other colleges across the West Midlands to produce a blueprint for the future of the region’s further education sector.

It is the only Shropshire-based college involved in the creation of a new ‘Prospectus For Capital Investment’, published by Colleges West Midlands.

Colleges West Midlands | Telford College

Colleges West Midlands | Telford College

The 100-page report sets out a vision that, leaders say, could pave the way towards a more collaborative and constructive way for colleges to engage with the Government and other stakeholders.

It focuses on two key areas – improvements needed to some of the region’s college facilities, and investment required to deliver top-level digital learning in a post Covid-19 world.

The prospectus estimates that, in total, some £636 million needs to be invested over the next five years to ensure the region’s colleges are resourced adequately to deliver high-quality learning resources.

It calls for the creation of a ‘regional skills capital investment plan’ to ensure further education colleges are properly resourced to help deliver economic prosperity for the West Midlands.

Graham Guest, principal and chief executive of Telford College, said: “During the austerity years,

Telford College Principal | Graham Guest

Telford College Principal | Graham Guest

there has been little strategically co-ordinated and planned investment in further education across the region.

“The Government will inevitably call on colleges to meet the needs of young people who find themselves unemployed as a result of the post Covid-19 recession.

“It would be surprising if any new Government initiative to tackle the issue of rising youth unemployment did not result in new demands on college capacity – so a top quality digital infrastructure will be crucial.”

Telford College has been praised by both students and employers in recent weeks for the way it has been using technology to maintain good communication during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The college has delivered a wide range of online courses using platforms such as Teams, Discord, Moodle, and secure Youtube channels.

It has also launched a ‘virtual’ open event to showcase new courses and facilities, which can be viewed throughout the summer HERE.

Mr Guest said the strength of partnership working between members of the Colleges West Midlands partnership and key stakeholders provided an opportunity for a dynamic new way of working around future investment.

He has written to Telford & Wrekin’s MPs, Mark Pritchard and Lucy Allan, saying he would welcome the opportunity to discuss the prospectus in further detail, and work together to support ‘meaningful and gainful employment and training’.

Colleges West Midlands is a formal partnership of 21 further education colleges which support more than 250,000 students a year, and collectively work with more than 12,000 employers.

Writing in the prospectus, chief executive David Hughes says: “Colleges in the West Midlands are vital to the Covid recovery that’s needed in the economy, labour market and across the diverse communities of the region.

“They will provide the local focus for people to get the skills they need to prosper in a changed and competitive labour market.

“The prospectus also helpfully sets out the digital infrastructure needs at a time when we have seen just how important online learning is.

“The forthcoming academic year, with social distancing requirements, will see most students partly studying online, using new technology to enhance their learning.

“That requires urgent investment now to be ready to provide the best possible experience for all learners and to deliver the platform which will make blended and hybrid learning the new normal in subsequent years.”