Colleges are taking centre stage in running community outreach campaigns that see them engaging with and supporting their local communities.

From delivering courses designed to develop “Green Teachers” to extoll the virtues of sustainability to future generations of children – enter Ayrshire College, to assisting the care sector with sustainable recruitment as is happening in a pilot project at Sutton College, the impact of colleges is, increasingly, stretching beyond their campuses.

The 2018 Green Gown Awards, which took place on Thursday 8th November at The National Railway Museum in York, celebrated the best in sustainability initiatives from universities and colleges across the UK and Ireland and amongst the winners were colleges that have embraced the positive impact they can have by working with their communities.

Leading the way in this area is Glasgow Kelvin College, winner of the Student Engagement Green Gown Award. The college recognises that gender based violence in the East End of Glasgow is a perpetual problem and has committed itself to tackling this societal challenge by supporting the White Ribbon campaign - a global movement, working to engage men in tackling Violence Against Women.

The College has supported the training of members of its staff and Student Association; linked the campaign with College departments to help develop and tailor resources; and raised awareness amongst its teaching staff and learning community through organised workshops and events in order to help its community tackle this challenge head on.

Reaching out to the community from a different angle, Stockport Adult Learning, in collaboration with a Third Sector organisation which has specialist skills to support individuals in recovery from addiction dependency, is running a course to address learners' boundaries, the effects of self-defeating behaviours, emotional awareness, self-esteem and personal responsibility. The course, which won the Green Gown Award for Benefitting Society, gives learners a sense of well-being and purpose and, in many cases, has helped attendees address offending behaviours and the effect of these behaviours on their families and community.

Design also plays a role in reaching the community. City of Glasgow College has worked on a design that can be adapted and configured on a day to day basis to make space as accessible and usable as possible. They also invite citizens to use their facilities even if they are not a student and the architecture of their building enhances the City of Glasgow skyline through its green design.

The desire to effect change isn’t only coming from institutions either. As part of his studies for the new RQF HNC in Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Alex Dixon, from Exeter College Technology Centre, has re-invented the way his workplace builds its bestselling product through re-designing the way a PCB is manufactured. This has made the process efficiency rise dramatically and in 2018 the change will save the company in the region of £20,000 as well as cutting out several environmentally detrimental processes.

Further education can have a huge impact on its surrounding communities and environment. We encourage all colleges to look at the examples from the Green Gown Awards and get inspired. 

The Green Gown Awards are open to all further education colleges, sixth forms, work-based learning providers and adult community education organisations. It is free to enter and applications for 2019 open in April. 

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