Graham Guest, principal and chief executive of Telford College

We are in exciting times for Telford and Shropshire. With new waves of investment bringing in hundreds of jobs, we have one of the fastest growing economies in the Midlands.

But we are not going to simply sit back and ride this wave of success – we have a fantastic opportunity to build, grow and develop our region.

Employers only choose to invest when the setting is right, and that means having access to people with the right kind of skills.

With the government having now approved the creation of Telford College on 20 December 2017 – a merger between Telford College of Arts and Technology, and New College Telford – we are now perfectly placed to deliver an academic and vocational offer in university-standard facilities for the region.

Traditional A levels routes will sit side-by-side with vocational and work-based programmes in over 70 different industries, ensuring there is a career path to get the best out of everyone.

2017 was a year of significant improvement for Telford College. So much has changed, improved and developed for the better – here are some of our milestones from the past 12 months:

  • The launch of our brand new 7th Form for A level students
  • A recognition of improvement from Ofsted
  • A 12% improvement in vocational achievements
  • Our best ever GCSE English and maths results – well above national averages
  • A positive enrolment with higher student numbers
  • Over 2,500 visitors to our two open events of the academic year

We’re changing the rules and innovating how we teach our students. Education can no longer put the emphasis purely on qualifications – it must also consider the skills which employers need, and the evolving career opportunities on our doorstep.

We will be addressing skills shortages by working closely with external partners whilst also developing career-ready students.

Good exam grades are a good first step, but for many employers, the ‘softer’ skills like the ability to hold a confident conversation, or solve day-to-day office problems, are just as vital – and sometimes harder to find.

This is one of the reasons we have launched our new 7th Form, which takes the offerings of a traditional sixth form with direct links not just to universities, but crucially also to industry mentors from local companies.

It means that students can hear directly what sort of person they’ll need to be if they are to make it in their chosen career.

We’ve welcomed some of Shropshire’s employers to our campuses in recent months, from Palethorpes and Greenhous to GKN, Southwater Event Group, Tesco, Bespoke Computing, AceOn Group, Terry Jones Solicitors, the local authority and chamber of commerce, and we are building up close links with many more.

In February we are collaborating with a number of partners to stage a recruitment event for the construction industry at our Haybridge Road campus, to help address the local skills shortage.

The knowledge that leading businesses are working with us to shape our curriculum is, we believe, priceless in giving people the best possible start.

In the past 12 months 3,154 of our students went into the world of work, and we only want to grow this figure to give them the best opportunities in their lives.

Modern-day further education is about raising people’s aspirations, and getting them the qualifications required while boosting their confidence, social skills and self-esteem too.

It is vital we support young people to make the right choices about where they want to study. Thankfully, for those worried about student loans, there has never been a wider choice of higher education opportunities.

We are confident Telford College will make a significant contribution to the economic development of the area, and provide a curriculum that meets the needs of current and future students.

And so, with our merger now officially rubber stamped, we press on. I would like to personally thank staff from both sites for their professionalism, support and positivity during the merger process.

Students from each site are already experiencing college together through our student councils, sports teams and ambassador programmes.

Our plan is to keep the two existing campuses – in Haybridge Road and King Street – open and operational as normal until the end of the current academic year. King Street students will be visiting their new settings on Haybridge Road in the coming months.

After that, all Telford College students will be based at Haybridge Road, boosted by investment in industry-standard equipment, including the latest virtual and augmented reality technology to bring learning to life.

Cutting-edge technology will only be beneficial though if we also equip students with the basic requirements. The importance of maths and English cannot be over-stressed.

It is vital if students are to progress into a higher level and career opportunities, and we’ve recognised this by opening a new drop-in hub for those who need that extra bit of support.

It has reaped massive rewards – we have celebrated our best ever GCSE results, with performances in maths and English comprehensively outperforming national averages.

This has given more students the opportunity to confidently apply for roles knowing they have the qualification employers are looking for.

This is an exciting time for further education and for Telford, and it’s vital we work together with our partners to help create people with strong academic, vocational and employability skills.

Graham Guest, principal and chief executive of Telford College

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