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‘Back to college’ for North Yorkshire’s High Sheriff

North Yorkshire's High Sheriff, Clare Granger, discussing skill shortages with Principal Danny Wild in Harrogate College's construction yard. Matt Radcliffe Photography

Image by Matt Radcliffe Photography

Harrogate College students have been rubbing shoulders with a high profile guest who once stood in their shoes – the High Sheriff of North Yorkshire.

It has been decades since Clare Granger was last at the campus as a student of fine art, but lots of happy memories came flooding back when she visited this month.

The High Sheriff discussed the college’s sustainability work, its commitment to delivering an employer-led curriculum, and the plans for its new £20 million building with Principal Danny Wild.

She also enjoyed looking around its current creative facilities, including for textiles, painting, photography, ceramics, printing and media makeup, during a whistle-stop tour.

She said: “How exciting to be back here after quite a few years – I was here probably during the nineties!”

Ms Granger was intrigued to hear about an MA Creative Practice graduate, Hannah Alderson, who is now exploring how working with clay can help reduce mental health conditions like anxiety.

MA Creative Practice Programme Manager, Dr Annabel Smith, told the High Sheriff: “Hannah noticed, when she started to work with clay, how it immediately helped her own anxiety and wanted to find out more.

“She’s now taken research into that further and is working with doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists with a view to starting a PhD: all while keeping a busy home life going.”

Ms Granger said: “Part of the theme of my High Sheriff year is exactly what Hannah’s doing, exploring the links between creativity and wellbeing.”

A focus on technical skills and sustainability

Technical training, including in green skills such as sustainable energy, low carbon construction, retrofit and electric vehicle maintenance, is at the core of what the college does.

So the High Sheriff was also shown around the campus’s construction area, where she viewed a model passivhaus building – created using ultra-efficient energy use standards – and the bricklaying and solar panels sections.

Lecturer Denise Cain, meanwhile, explained how the hair and beauty salons were producing skilled hairdressers, while Hospitality Programme Manager, Jason Parry, led a tour of the kitchens where students train.

Reflecting on her visit, Ms Granger was full of praise for college projects including the Harrogate College Employers’ Network*.

Praise for an employer-led approach

She said: “What a wonderful initiative to find out what skills the businesses are predominantly looking for, and to train the students accordingly. It sounds simple but so often we seem to struggle to provide the skilled workforce that is required. 

”I enjoyed seeing and hearing all about the various courses offered and it was so good to hear of the response by the college to sustainability.”

Referring to the new building, she added: “It certainly sounds as though that will be tremendously exciting. I shall certainly look forward to seeing it when it is complete.”

Mr Wild said: “It was a real pleasure to welcome Clare, both as the High Sheriff of North Yorkshire and a very successful former student, to the college so she could see all the different things we do now.

“She was really surprised, and enthused, to hear about how closely we’re working with businesses to provide a curriculum that matches up with their needs and the needs of our students.

“She was also very supportive of our new campus building plans, which will result in a much more efficient, purpose-built facility focused on technical education and supporting growth sectors.

“We were pleased to tell her more about our work on sustainability, too – including our goal of becoming a recognised centre of green excellence – and how this reaches right across North Yorkshire.”

*The employers’ network, which was set up to create a direct link between the college and businesses, now has 127 members. Harrogate College is part of Luminate Education Group.

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