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COVE 'badge of quality' boosts student numbers

A college has almost doubled its intake of electrical and plumbing trainees in just three months since being awarded pound;200,000 to upgrade its workshops.

Eastleigh college in Hampshire gained the additional funding as a result of achieving centre of vocational excellence status.

Tony Lau-Walker, the college's chief executive, said: "When we bid for this money in July, we had 170 students taking a range of electrical installation, refrigeration, air-conditioning and plumbing courses. We are now accommodating 320."

He said the college is attracting trainees from large and small companies across southern England with its industrial-standard facilities that "simulate the real working environment".

Trainees aged between 16 and 40 are travelling to the college from as far afield as Kent, Berkshire, and Dorset, with the nearest college with CoVE status offering similar courses being in north London.

The college received full CoVE status for air-conditioning, refrigeration and electrical installation in September, after holding interim status for more than a year.

Mr Lau-Walker said that achieving the status has boosted student numbers on all courses.

The number of students aged 16 to 18 has risen by 6 per cent, and the number of adult learners has risen by 12 per cent during the past two years.

He added: "Achieving full CoVE status has given us a higher profile with employers. They feel more comfortable sending students here if we are carrying a badge of quality.

"It is also helping us recruit more students generally. We only offer vocational courses and it is important for us to be recognised as a centre of excellence."

He said to achieve CoVE status requires colleges to become involved with local companies and organisations. "There is a fairly rigorous process to be recognised as a CoVE, and it is important that there is a quality kite mark attached to it," he added He said the college employs 12 CoVE trainers who "keep their own skills up to date via sabbaticals in industry".

More than 200 colleges now have CoVE status and a recent report commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council said CoVEs are having a positive effect on student recruitment.

The study, Managing Progress, showed that 81 per cent of colleges with the status reported actual or forecast increases in the number of learners. It also stated that two-thirds of CoVEs forecast a rise in achievement levels and said that the majority of employers surveyed reported high levels of satisfaction with the training provided.

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