Colleges are dynamic hubs of innovation

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Did you know that artists and teachers graduating from Harrogate College lead the way in social and cultural development, confirming that colleges are dynamic hubs of innovation and creativity?

Recently I have had cause to reflect on just how special it is to be in a position to influence change, especially when it is the kind of change that will have a positive and lasting impact on the lives of others, writes Debra Forsythe-Conroy, principal of Harrogate College.

Working in the Education sector and particularly in higher education, has brought with it many exciting challenges, including some which have required tremendous tenacity, fresh approaches and the courage to move forward in the face of uncertainty. There is no doubt about it that navigating the constantly changing landscape of funding and policy initiatives, is difficult, and requires tremendous personal and professional resolve, but that it also brings tremendous rewards whose benefits are both wonderful and widespread.

An example which springs immediately to mind is the ‘art and craft of teaching’, facilitating learning so that the benefit is shared, passed from one to another, in a process where at each transfer the benefit is amplified. Harrogate College has a long history of training teachers; in the last decade over a hundred Teacher Educators have developed their skills and knowledge to become qualified practitioners in their own right.

It can only be guessed at the actual number of students who have benefitted from their support, only to pass on their gifts through the onward contributions they in turn, make to Schools and Colleges, Health Care settings, Businesses, Community Groups, Sports Teams, Child Care facilities, the list is as endless, as endless as the impact.

If consideration is given to those students whose skills build and develop over time, progressing to higher levels of study, either in vocational pathways, developing skills in Construction, Engineering, Health, Early Years Care, Beauty and Hospitality, or in Arts and Architecture and the profound difference this makes to the social and economic well-being of our town, and our region, then we begin to glimpse the pattern of our ‘learning society’ in all its richness.

Practitioners, Artists and Teachers graduating from Harrogate College lead the way in social and cultural development. Those Harrogate College students who graduated with Masters of Arts Degrees in the last 12 months have gone on to stage exhibitions across the region, and nationally, one of whom, Sandra Storey, a practicing Art Psychotherapist, has engaged in collaborative work with Whitby Museum in a pilot project funded by Museum Development: Yorkshire delivered in partnership with a group of individuals who experience mental health difficulties and social isolation.

As a form of interaction with others, Learning and Teaching is one of the most profound ways of making a difference and it is a great privilege to see the benefits it brings each day at Harrogate College. I observe colleagues and students working together to produce wonderful new perspectives, knowledge, skills and understanding, and communicate them widely.

Observing the developing vocabularies that are influenced by new media, and ways of communicating, and talk to employers about how valuable these skills have become to their future workforce, and we are constantly surprised by how enterprising our students are in identifying potential opportunities and combining skills sets to realise their ideas.

Harrogate College graduates, whether they practice Arts, Education, Business, Health, or Science acquire a set of graduate attributes which distinguish them by their flexibility and resilience, they are enterprising and thrive on challenge. They can adapt their skills to a wide range of settings and circumstances and have the capacity to add value to their community, wherever that is, and whatever context they operate in.