Students and staff at West Nottinghamshire College showcased its work to provide high-quality education, training and career pathways when Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson MP visited its campuses.
The Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South discovered how the college is equipping students and apprentices with the skills to work in a range of industries and is supporting economic prosperity through partnerships across the public and private sectors.
Ms Phillipson spoke with a group of learners studying A-Levels, animal care, childcare, health and social care, hospitality and catering, and uniformed protective services about their courses and the support they receive at college.
She watched students train for jobs in welding, engineering and the emerging sectors of automation and robotics following the college’s investment in state-of-the-art facilities to meet future skills demands.
The MP also talked to students about their experiences of growing up in the care system to understand the improvements they wanted to see made, so that young people’s voices were heard by decision-makers.
Her visit, on Thursday 20 April, included a discussion with college principal and chief executive Andrew Cropley and chair of governors Sean Lyons, who emphasised that further education (FE) colleges were central to driving social mobility and economic growth in their communities.
Afterwards they were joined by Sarah Mayfield, director of Nottingham Trent University’s Mansfield Hub, to highlight the successful partnership between the two institutions that is giving people in Mansfield and Ashfield greater access to higher education (HE) and is aiding their transition from FE to HE.
Ms Phillipson said: “I was delighted to visit West Nottinghamshire College to see the amazing work around providing opportunities for local young people but also for mature students to get new skills and to move into other areas of work.
“I was really impressed with the partnership with Nottingham Trent University around giving adults in particular the chance to move into health careers, and the links with local employers are really strong.
“The college is right at the heart of the community, working with employers and providing opportunities for local people.”
The shadow secretary of state made time to visit several of the college’s campuses including its sixth-form centre on Chesterfield Road South, Mansfield, engineering centre on Oddicroft Lane, Sutton-in-Ashfield, and main campus on Derby Road, Mansfield.
She praised its vocational training facilities after watching students hone their skills in welding, engineering, automotive and automation.
“Technology is changing fast and that means people will need to adapt during their working lives and have the chance to reskill and upskill,” said Ms Phillipson.
“Colleges like West Notts are going to be incredibly important to making sure everyone has the chance to get on and succeed, working with employers.
“The facilities are really impressive and the fact that learners have the chance to put their skills into practice in a real-life environment is incredibly important.”
Principal Andrew Cropley said: “I enjoyed being able to show Ms Phillipson a small part of what our college does every day to raise aspirations and create opportunities across our communities.
“She took away some very powerful messages from our students about their life experience and its relationship with their education. I’m sure she was impressed by the students she met who were benefitting from our investments in automation and robotics, which in turn will support our businesses to prosper and offer increased opportunities for local people.
“I was pleased to be able to explain the power and potential of our partnerships with employers, local authorities and other providers, particularly Nottingham Trent University, and the impact these are already having.
“I hope she left with a clear understanding that a government that trusts, empowers and supports further education colleges to lead partnerships across private and public sectors, and then challenges us to deliver sustained impact, will achieve so much more in terms of economic growth and social mobility.”