The provision of further education in the borough has been under the spotlight, and a cause of concern, since the announcement last year that the trust that ran Tresham College was in severe financial difficulty.
Students and employers in the town faced yet more uncertainty with the prospect of losing the provision of quality, skills based education a real possibility. The Chamber of Commerce was, of course, heartened by the news that Tresham was to merge with the very successful Bedford College group but it remained unclear what would happen with the Wellingborough campus, so in need of redevelopment as it is.
It was against this backdrop that the chamber decided to organise a ‘Big Conversation’ by inviting key stakeholders concerned to an informal meeting to discuss the current situation and how plans were developing for the coming years. In attendance were business leaders, the chief executive of Bedford College, Ian Pryce, and Julie Thomas, Director of Borough Council of Wellingborough. What followed was a frank and insightful review of the previous provision of FE, the immediate plan to stabilise the new group (the merger went through 1st August), the skills requirement for Wellingborough and how these plans can be delivered in a collaborative fashion.
The outcomes were generally very encouraging as listed below:
• Recruitment remains an issue for many complex reasons but not least attitudes to work and expectations.
•Further education provision will be retained and stepped up significantly from the current 60 students up to 500.
- Planning already in place to improve the quality and scope of this provision with a drive towards more students studying to level 3 qualifications.
- This provision is most likely to be on part of the current site with plans being formulated for disposing of the remainder…. this is good news for town centre businesses as well as opportunity for our young people.
- Positive attitude from Bedford/Tresham and the BCW to engagement at all levels with local business and a willingness for WCoC to be a hub for this interaction.
- A fresh approach to the promotion of Wellingborough – All the attendees are keen to identify and work together in the promotion of the many opportunities available to the town and surrounding area.
The chamber looks forward to working closely with the college and BCW to ensure that the best opportunities are delivered for our young people and employers alike.