From education to employment

Sue Buss, Thanet College Principal, continues the debate running exclusively on

To put it into context: We”re based in South East Kent and we have really broad links with employers. But one of our strongest areas is in catering and hospitality. We have a Centre of Vocational Excellence (COVE) in catering and hospitality, and Thanet College is the college that trained Gary Rhodes. We”ve trained chefs to go to the British Embassy, Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, so we have a really strong track record in training. The strength of the provision is in really growing our links with employers. This is a real growth area, in relation to tourism generally, but now we”re also looking to the future with the development of the Olympics, where there is going to be a huge increase in demand in the south-east.

We have a very good track record of working with companies such as P&O. Not only do we provide more traditional training, we actually send staff on board to work with the crews so the training takes place on board a ship crossing the channel.

We have developed an initiative called the “Industrial Professor”; a recognition of professionals in the field, and these professors work with the college to help us review our curriculum to make sure it is related to industry standard ““ they come back with recommendations for changes, they offer work experience and give good professional support for our staff. In this way, we have developed a really good link with industry.

From our point of view, having training opportunities for young people and for adults, focused on current employment and anticipating future employment, is actually essential. For us, there isn”t an academic or vocational divide. Young people need training in vocational skills.

One of the interesting things we do with our young chefs is to train them in our industry standard restaurant, a COVE restaurant where we have just invested over £4 million. But once the meal has been served in the restaurant, they come out in their whites, and go around the tables to discuss with the customers what their experience was of the meal and what could be improved.

A young 16-year old coming in from school is quite bashful initially ““ part of their training is to develop their communication skills. They have got to be able to have good oral and written skills.

For us, the academic side supports the vocational development, and it is complementary. In terms of general training I think there should be a synergy between the two. We shouldn”t focus on the divide; we should look at ways in which academic areas can support vocational areas and vice versa.

Sue Buss, Principal, Thanet College.

Tomorrow: Chris Thomson, Principal of Brighton, Hove and Sussex 6th Form continues the debate, exclusively on FE News

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