Ambitious engineering centre marks the way ahead for City College
CITY College Plymouth, our well-loved local further education institution, is good.
So good in fact that it is currently number one in the South West (an area that extends right up to Gloucester) and fifth for student achievements in the National Success Rate Tables 2011/12.
To put that into perspective, think about the 230 further education colleges in the UK, and it doesn't take much to see that in CCP we have something special right on our doorstep. Almost 10 per cent of Plymouth's population (15 and over) study or train with the college in a single year and the college makes a whopping £56 million direct contribution to the local economy in any twelve month period. That means that one way or another CCP is involved every day in some part of our local lives.
City College Plymouth has seen some dramatic changes over the years – the latest of which is the soon to be opened multi-million pound investment in a new engineering centre at the King's Road campus. Investment in real terms generally means bricks and mortar and equipment and though City College are no slouches on that front (millions have been invested in the estate and equipment over the last few years alone), the heart and soul of The College is still the quality teaching, mentoring, training and support that they continue to give their 17,000 strong student body – including full and part timers, mature students, apprentices, trainees and adult learners.
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The person at the helm of the continuing success and development is Phil Davies, who has been Principal since 2011. His route to his pivotal post was via the University of Bedfordshire, most latterly as the Director of Corporate Partnerships. He is a man who understands education and training, is informed, inspirational and who has the vision and commercial know how to have made the college a place where people are motivated, inspired, supported and enabled.
Phil brings a wealth of experience to his role and is a vocal advocate of the benefits of education, whatever your age or ability. The benefits of studying with a college like City College are many and varied but clear to Phil. He said: "We can be much more fleet of foot, more responsive to what's happening in the external environment and tend to be unencumbered by bureaucracy. If there are new gaps opening up in the market, new qualifications on stream or things happening in the economy or employment sectors across the city, we are able to respond very, very quickly."
That means that the courses that City College offer are directly tied to the business market and the aspirations of their students. "It is imperative that employers are involved in determining what the college offers; the design, the delivery and in monitoring the quality of what we offer. We have an employer endorsement scheme which many of the leading employers in the region have signed up to through which they contribute to the courses we offer. We have employer advisory boards that are the formal mechanism for ensuring that our provision is actively endorsed by employers and they are engaged in all aspects of college life."
The education landscape seems ever changing but interest in local learning has never been stronger. Said Phil: "We're seeing a considerable interest in vocational provision in particular amongst people who may have possibly gone on to university. It's a recognition that vocational qualifications are able to give people those skills we know that employers are looking for. It is broadening options for students and I think that it particularly exciting."
There is a wide range of courses in a variety of industry sectors which is only matched by the diversity of City College Plymouth's students.
Said Phil: "We have sizeable provision for 14-16 years for which we work in partnership with schools in particular to offer young people vocational tasters. We have a significant number of 16-18 year olds who are studying a range of vocational or A Level programmes, significant numbers of students studying on University level programmes in partnership with Plymouth University and a number of adults who study every year – some who want to future proof their careers with qualifications that will allow them to continue or progress in their careers, adults who want to change career direction, others who are unemployed."
Diversity means that City College Plymouth's approach needs to be comprehensive and well-rounded one. Theirs is an holistic approach and a lot of work goes into motivating, engaging and enthusing students about their futures.
Alongside the excellent real work experience at their in house bistro, PL one and hair and day spa, Stars, the carefully considered curriculum and accessible teaching methods, there is wraparound pastoral care which ensures students have access to everything they need to help them become successful, including nurturing budding Richard Branson's.
Said Phil: "We are one of 19 Gazelle colleges in the UK, colleges that are committed to developing students' enterprise and entrepreneurial skills. We're providing a much richer experience for our students because we know that employers are looking for people who are innovative, creative and who can approach problem solving from a variety of different ways."
He is enthusiastic about the future of City College Plymouth and the contribution that young people are making to their success, particularly young apprentices. He said: "It may surprise people to hear this but young people are highly motivated, particularly in these austere and difficult economic times.
"They understand the need to 'future proof' themselves even at 16. The South West is the highest performing region in the country for successfully completed apprenticeships, with Plymouth the highest performing city in that group. City College Plymouth is a contributor to the success of the programme and we are the only college of further education to achieve outstanding from Ofsted for it's apprenticeship scheme."