From education to employment

Good Work Bromley Exchange: Community Collaboration 

Neil Coates, Chief Operating Officer- Enterprise and Employment, London South East Colleges

As an FE college, collaboration with our local authorities and employers is, and has always been, a fundamental part of our work. 

Progression for our students into employment is our main aim, and we support this by ensuring as many pathways are open to them as possible. 

For some people, finding their way into training and work isn’t easy. Finding a job can be a difficult process for those deemed economically inactive  – but is absolutely possible given the right support, guidance and opportunities. 

In our London borough, many employers are facing growing skills gaps across their businesses. Many recognise the importance of engaging with colleges and are keen to play their part in supporting and securing a pipeline of future employees. 

Looking Beyond our College and into our Local Community

So, to meet the challenge of matching the jobs with the people who need them, we looked beyond just our own college and further into our local community. A conversation with the London Borough of Bromley led to discussions around the UK SDF (part funded by the UK Government) and how we could work with them to help utilise this funding to get local people into work. 

Completely aligning with our organisational values, we knew that as a college, we could really support the council with its own aims to help its employers and residents into good and fulfilling work.  

And with our successful track record of supporting young people into employment, we were in a good position to do this. This included our work with DWP on Youth Hubs and our successful NHS Supported Internship programme, which focused on getting young people with autism into fulfilling employment at our local hospital, in partnership with Bromley Council. 

Both these projects involved a wide range of supportive stakeholders, including key disability charity partners in the borough. These links were instrumental in enabling us to develop a new employment programme – which became the Good Work Bromley Exchange.  

The success of this project was very much dependent on support from local employers and charities, ensuring that people who need the jobs and people who have the jobs can be connected. 

By providing residents with this link to high-quality employers, we are giving them access to better opportunities by providing advice, training and support. The programme helps prepare people to apply for jobs and the interview/selection process – particularly those from more vulnerable groups such as those leaving care, those with autism and/or with special educational needs. And even for people looking to return to work, who may have previously retired early.   

But in our role as an anchor institution, deeply rooted in our communities, this type of initiative goes beyond simply helping people into work. We are also committed to supporting employers to help sustain a strong local and regional economy – generating wider social value and community wealth. 

Enabling employers to promote their vacancies

This new project will enable employers to promote their vacancies, run matching events and train candidates directly with the skills their business needs. Employers themselves can also access mentorship and other training opportunities – which again is crucial for growth and success. A true win-win for the region. 

But the real power of the Good Work Bromley Exchange is its network of excellent partners. The collaboration of a Local Authority, an FE college, charities and employers reflects the shared ambition within the borough to improve and serve our local community. 

Together, we have been able to use our influence within our respective industries to bring a network of experts together – from SEND specialist to referral agencies – all of whom are focused on getting people into training and fulfilling work, in the same way as our NHS Supported Internship programme.  

Yet this is just the start

The success of this project will now depend on ensuring current and new employers continue to engage, putting their opportunities forward for us to help them fill. 

Ultimately, the job of an FE college is to provide people with the skills and knowledge they need to get into work or into a better job – and this is why employers are at the heart of this project.  

Building Strong Relationships with Businesses is Key

Building strong relationships with businesses will always be key to the work our sector does. However, with the financial and social challenges so many people are currently facing, it’s time to expand this further by collaborating even more widely.  

Partnerships can bring much greater impact – and Good Work Bromley Exchange is a great example of this. For more information visit: Good Work Bromley Exchange ( 

By Neil Coates, Deputy Principal Apprenticeships, Adults and Higher Education, London South East Colleges 

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