Listening to the mood music

Louise Doswell is clear on the part educational establishments like hers can play in helping deliver the levelling up agenda.

And the new principal and chief executive at Preston College believes the government is increasingly recognising the importance of further education and technical training.

She says: “The mood music seems to be that there is a recognition of the importance of further education and technical training in meeting that levelling up agenda.”

Louise, who took over her role in June this year, has more than 20 years’ experience in the sector and is focused on the role and value of further education and the power it has to transform lives and communities.

The Fulwood based campus, now back as Preston rather than Preston’s College after its recent rebrand, delivers education to just over 2,000 16 to 18-year-olds, along with 2,500 to 3,000 adults.

The wide range qualifications it offers include the new T levels. An alternative to A levels and other 16 to 19 courses, the focus is on vocational skills that can help students into employment, higher studies or apprenticeships. Louise describes the new courses as “stretching and challenging”.

When asked about levelling up, she says: “We most certainly have to play a part in it. If the aspiration is to have high technical capabilities in this country, then we are a vehicle for that.”

Another important factor in meeting that agenda is the relationship between businesses and further education establishments.

Louise believes that with skills shortages evident in a range of sectors it is more important than ever that employers engage with colleges like Preston.

She says: “We are here to train the future employees. We need to understand what it is employers want and then we can enhance, develop or introduce new curriculum to meet the needs of the employers.

“Employers are really busy, the message that we need to get across to them is that you should never be too busy to understand what training and development opportunities are available to grow and develop your business.”

She also believes it is important to help employers navigate their way through the “complexity of education”.

And she adds: “It is important that we keep talking about the benefits of vocational and technical education. The key thing is we knock on doors.”

Louise also talks about encouraging and feeding the ambitions of her students, saying: “It is really important to make our students the most employable that they can be.”

Looking at the wider further education setting she says funding has always been a challenge and the government should recognise that delivering vocational and technical education costs money.

She says: “They need to start rewarding us sufficiently to be able to keep delivering. If not, we will cut our cloth but continue to deliver excellence in teaching and learning.”

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