Interview: Principal on how Harrogate College is reconnecting with town and businesses even during Covid

The troubled days of Harrogate College at Hornbeam Park may finally be a thing of the past, despite the problems caused by Covid this year.

Friday, 20th November 2020, 10:27 am
Updated Friday, 20th November 2020, 10:30 am

Under its positive-minded principal Danny Wild, this important part of Harrogate's educational fabric, which has been pulled from pillar to post in recent years in a series of mergers and transfers, is now in the process of reconnecting with Harrogate, its students and its businesses.

Its principal is determined to put the pride back in Harrogate college and make the town proud in return with a series of changes and improvements.

Harrogate College principal Danny Wild is working to reconnect with the district’s employers so he can improve the standard and variety of courses on offer. (Picture: Gerard Binks)

Mr Wild, 39, who lives with his wife and family in Boroughbridge said: “The college I inherited just over a year ago had become a bit disconnected from the community.

“We hadn’t been delivering the right curriculum for young people and we hadn’t maintained a relationship with businesses for two or three years.

“We want people in Harrogate to have confidence that Harrogate College is good enough for their children.

“Covid threatened to put a real handbrake on what we’re doing but we’ve still managed to make a lot of progress this year.”

Appointed to the role of Harrogate College principal in August 2019 by Luminate Education group, one of the largest further education providers in the north, Mr Wild has a clear vision of what needs to be done to build the reputation of this place of further education and adult learning, whose roots go back to the 19th century.

He said: “Harrogate is mainly made up of small and medium-sized businesses with a history dominated by science and hospitality.

“The college’s role must be as a pathway for people to get the skills to do the jobs and get the apprenticeships that local businesses need.

“We’re proud now to offer a curriculum designed around employer and industry needs, after consultations across the Harrogate district.”

Despite the disruptions of Covid, Harrogate College has continued to offer all its courses over the last seven months.

Though online only in the depths of lockdown, it listened to feedback from its students who said the practical nature of what they were studying meant they wanted to be back in college and its workshops.

Since the new term began in September, students have found themselves permitted to return in person, two to three days a week. But much has changed in the months since the pandemic first struck as principal Danny Wild’s vision of a college has taken hold.

The list of new features includes:

Securing two pharmaceutical industry-leading apprenticeship standards via Health Education England (HEE) - the Level 2 Pharmacy Services Assistant and the Level 3 Pharmacy Technician.

Becoming a gateway for the Government’s Kickstart Scheme which provides funding to employers to create job placements for 16-to-24 year olds.

The introduction of three new commercially-minded business courses this term.

Completing plans to offer new two-year T Levels in science and pharmacy from 2021 and construction and business finance from 2022.

Mr Wild, who has spent his life in further education and was recently Director of Academic Studies at Leeds City College, is proud of the improvements Harrogate College has made over recent months.

But, he adds, there will be more to come as the college meets the employment needs of the town.

He said: “We currently have 40 Kickstart students with employers.

“In terms of apprenticeships, we are probably doing better than 2019, mainly in hospitality, motors, construction and customer service.

“Next month we are offering a construction course for free with a strong focus on retro-fitting houses to meet the Government’s energy efficiency goals.

“I would say to any business that has a skills gap, come to us.

“We will do what we can to meet their needs.”

Harrogate College: Heritage & upheaval

Harrogate College came into being as part of the University Extension Movement which began in 1873 under the auspices of Cambridge University.

After decades at Bower Road in Harrogate, it moved to the old ICI Fibres site at Hornbeam Park in 1985.

Two decades of upheaval have seen it merge with Leeds Metropolitan University in 1998, become a satellite of Hull College in 2008. By 2016 it had grown to serve nearly 3,000 students split between full time and part-time youngsters aged 16 and above, adult learners and apprentices. Although

Harrogate College attracts students from across North Yorkshire, a total of 73% live in an HG postcode.

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