Harrogate College column: Exciting year ahead as campus plans take shape

Construction Site Manager Gary Kemp on campus with Harrogate College Principal Debra Forsythe-Conroy
Construction Site Manager Gary Kemp on campus with Harrogate College Principal Debra Forsythe-Conroy

With the New Year now in full swing, it’s a busy time for colleges and training providers in planning and marketing their new courses ready for the start of the new academic year.

For Harrogate College there is an additional challenge which is to ensure our exciting campus developments are ready for our new intake of eager students and apprentices.

The pace of the work remains good and more or less on schedule despite some dreadful bouts of poor weather, the steel frames for our new technology building are due in the next few days and from then, this additional building will really start to develop quickly.

We are aiming to have all works complete by July/August so we can start the 2016-17 academic year with a bang.

Our revamp project will deliver a more dynamic, modern learning and industrially relevant environment for our students and staff, and will help us to further build on our excellent record of equipping students with the skills that are sought after by local and regional employers.

The construction phase of the scheme is also beneficial for a number of our students, with those studying a variety of construction trades being given the opportunity to work on the project as part of their studies.

This is an invaluable opportunity for our students to get significant work experience and to develop a deeper understanding of the employability skills (not just trade skills) required in an increasingly competitive job market.

At Harrogate College as with other colleges and training providers we have to ensure our curriculum offer continues to be of the highest quality and that our teaching and training approaches keep ahead of the latest developments and skills demanded by employers.

We have made some big strides forward in recent years, but our work is far from done. It is absolutely vital that we do not plateau and become complacent with our progress. All post 16 providers should always strive to improve their offer year on year and the outcomes for their most important customer – the students. The skill sets that employers are looking for in vocational, technical and professional course graduates are perpetually evolving; we need to positively respond to these demands.

Continual investment in our infrastructure, our staff and our course offer is the key to making sure that we support our students in maximising their success. This aspiration includes reaching out to more of our rural communities to seek solutions to the desperate need for post 16 provision across the district while ever mindful of the difficulties some of our students who live out of the town experience in attending college or training providers. We intend being able to supply, through the use of careful planning and timetabling and good quality mobile technology, a blended delivery approach.

This will support those students who would typically have very long daily journeys into college by having one day in college with two or three days of directed study off site.

Serving the needs of both our local and rural communities is of vital importance. Our current estate development is therefore phase one of an ambitious, much needed investment into the college for the good of the students in the locality and the wider region and will ensure this continues into the future.

We are determined to strive for continued investment into technology and supporting infrastructure. We have identified under phase two of our plans, three priorities for required improvements moving forward.

First, we are aiming to deliver an overhaul of our IT infrastructure to enable us to enhance our current students’ learning experience and help us reach more students from further afield by developing our online and distance learning offer.

Secondly, we are planning to re-focus our curriculum into career pathways including highly specialised curriculum such as accountancy, health and social care and science while also providing a wider range of apprenticeships across the trades and professions including those at higher levels which is an alternative pathway to obtaining a degree.

Our final priority and one which is also incredibly exciting is a significant upgrade of our sporting provision to include a multi-use 4G pitch, which will benefit those working towards professional qualifications in the sport sector at the college as well as the wider community who will be able to use the facilities for local clubs and teams.

With ever tightening public purse strings, we have prepared a blueprint which is viable and allows us to be self-sufficient in such austere times. In all 2016 is a very exciting year in prospect and we are ready and raring to make sure we top 2015.