With a new year fast approaching, presenting new possibilities and uncertainties, we thought it appropriate to invite friend of the chamber Dan Shelley, Executive Director of East Sussex College Group to share his vision for the future.
It’s now been eight months since East Sussex College Group was formed, when Sussex Downs College officially merged with Sussex Coast College Hastings to form a new ‘college group’, strengthening the pipeline of skills and talent for employers.
In his first chamber speaking as Executive Director of ESCG, Shelley told us that ESC has been born into a tumultuous time within education, which has seen an 8% drop in 16-18 funding and 36% drop in adult education. Despite this, Shelley recognises the tremendous opportunity at hand. East Sussex College is now a £51m operation, with campuses in Hastings, Eastbourne, Lewes and Newhaven, developing a skills strategy to support growth and innovation among employers.
Already one of the South East’s largest trainers of apprentices they are ‘busting the myth of what an apprenticeship is,’ said Shelley. ‘It is not just about an entry job’, laying out his plan for more ‘in-situ’ courses and placements, having students develop more relevant skills for businesses.
They are designing programmes around employer investment plans as well as working with Hastings Opportunity Area, giving employers more flexibility in designing the development of their current and future workforce.
They have already made tough decisions, it is not just about having a new cohesive visual identity for the college, Shelley explained: ‘We are aiming to drive up standards and become the engine room for education and skills in the county,’ he says. ‘We have more flexibility in the system to match the expectations of employers and employees. Previously, you might only have been able to take an accredited course. Now we can link particular skills or competencies that require qualifications.’
With the two to three-year harmonisation program in process, Shelley is keen to improve levels of teaching and student support. Already seeing results, with higher grades than the national average, the plan has begun to reshape the training provision and its estate strategy.
For Hastings, the aim is to maintain and improve our A-Levels’ as first priority, particularly as 97% of HE students are drawn from the local area and stay in the area.
With this in mind, Shelley is opening up consultation on a developed five-year education strategy in February, focusing not only on their progression, but historical trends, projections, and most importantly evidence to radically change their delivery to match the best in the country. Not an easy task.
Reinventing their technical offer and moving away from qualifications, they are focusing on ‘what employers actually want, and the skills required’ with training in real environments. A successful example has been proven with Wave Leisure, with an ‘in-principle agreement’ for sports students to run the sports centre next to its Eastbourne campus, running in parallel with their core studies.
Mark Likeman, work experience team leader of East Sussex County Council, also came briefly to talk to the chamber about pre-16 Year 10 and Year 11 work experience. They are offering employers the opportunity to find out how to get involved with assisting teenagers on their choices post-secondary, with more flexible coordination for both schools and employers.
To find out more about Dan Shelley’s plans or how to get involved with Mark Likeman’s work experience, get in touch with the chamber.
That’s it for this year, Merry Christmas! See you in the new year.