West Notts College Principal Andrew Cropley on how he hopes they can make Mansfield and Ashfield prosperous again
After joining West Nottinghamshire College in 2019 he pledged to transform what they offer – from simply being an educator, to playing a fundamental role in driving the economies of Mansfield and Ashfield, to working with local authorities and businesses.
This, he explains, will provide businesses with the skilled workers they need, attract other businesses to the region, and create well-paying and sustainable jobs.
For Andrew, it’s about retaining talent in the Mansfield and Ashfield areas, partnering with Nottingham Trent University in their new neighboring base, so that people, depending on their career choices , can seamlessly move from college to university campus as almost an ongoing process.
He said to me, âThis is an exciting time for FE, and the whole FE government program is a driver of prosperity and I think we were ahead of that.
âWe want to be a force to raise aspirations, with a high performing staff, to encourage students to develop their potential and, in partnership with employers, to develop the workforce of the future – this is our vision, that’s what we want to be, and we’re much closer to that now than we were in 2019. â
He says that when the partnership with NTU was first announced, other directors were skeptical of the move, with universities in the habit of swallowing the FE colleges they worked with, but he said that âNottingham Trent is here for a long time. transport “.
He said, “If you are a bright young student at West Notts College, what will make you stay here?” Not enough at the moment. So our best students go to Nottingham or Manchester or Derby or London, and they don’t come back.
âSo that’s a big part of how we work with our local businesses to create these well-paying, secure jobs that will encourage our students to stay, and part of our partnership with NTU is about that.
âAround this time last year if you were a mom whose kids had gone to school now and you thought I want to be trained as a nurse that would have meant going to Nottingham or Sheffield or Derby or Lincoln three or four days a week, get a who knows where placement, then come back and hope you could find a job in your local community.
âNow you can walk down the street, graduate here, and get a guaranteed placement at the local hospital.
âThey are thrilled because the investment they make in training people brings in people who really want to work for them, rather than disappear. “
We walk around the bustling college, now back face to face after covid, and watch a course in health and social care – they used realistic specialist mannequins in a mock hospital ward to give students a real feel of their sector.
They offer courses up to Level 3 and an Access Program to Higher Education in Nursing – allowing students without the required qualifications to begin their studies, before moving on to NTU to continue.
We are looking at a digital technology classroom, where students occupy computer banks and have access to a professional-level television studio.
But it’s not just the Derby Road campus, Andrew tells me. There are huge plans for an automation and robotics center in Ashfield – close to where West Notts currently offers their construction programs and will soon expand further into civil engineering.
He says: âThe reality is that 30% of the jobs in Mansfield and Ashfield will be lost due to automation – you can treat that as a threat or an opportunity.
âI’m proud to say that we’ve taken the following approach: If automation happens, let’s do something that we can grab hold of. So if businesses want to automate, let’s not let our people sweep and lock the doors, let’s make sure they program the automation and the robots – use it, diagnose it, and maintain it that way. .
âIf Mansfield and Ashfield are going to thrive, it’s not about the public sector, it’s about the people who come here to make money, to invest money in our communities and to create these high paying jobs – then they pay their municipal taxes to the local authority, they spend more money on our shopping streets and you enter that positive circle. We want to play a role in making this happen.
There are also plans for a new town center to support local businesses, and a new Sixth Form Center on the college’s Chesterfield Road campus opened this year.
âWith our A-level students, we haven’t integrated enough into good universities, so we set up a sixth year college at our Chesterfield Road site to be able to create that atmosphere of academic excellence,â says Andrew. .
“If you’re coming to study A levels, it’s about getting you into the best university we can get you into.”
The walls of Andrew’s office are covered in patterns – there are posters for the NHS that were created by design students, and a campaign for a brewery. These are real designs, showcased and delivered by one of the many learning companies West Notts has created.
They operate like real businesses, with board meetings and the like, giving students real experience working in the industry.
He says the design business may be the most visible, but motor vehicle students maintain cars for the general public, computer science students repair their computers, while recreation and tourism students have done city ââtours for Historic Mansfield.
said AndrÃ©. âI want the people who live here to see our campuses as the path to good, well-paying jobs, and I want businesses to think that we can help them and that they can learn from us.â
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