'Delighted to be recognised': Bridgwater College reflects on its TES FE Award

The TES FE college of the year says the TES FE Awards help to promote the excellent work that’s going on in the FE sector

Mike Robbins

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All of us at Bridgwater College were delighted to be recognised as the 2016 TES FE Awards College of the Year, and to have been singled out by the judges for our sustained outstanding performance across a number of years. This sort of recognition highlights the positive contribution made by each and every one of our staff, whose energy, commitment and innovation combine to ensure that individuals are offered the very best opportunities to progress academically and within the world of work.

This year is turning out to be a truly exceptional one for Bridgwater College, which, ahead of Somerset’s area review, has recently merged with neighbouring Somerset College to form Bridgwater and Taunton College. The educational offer of the combined organisation is hugely diverse, encompassing A-levels, vocational training, apprenticeships and – unusually for an FE College – the International Baccalaureate. This means that young people across Somerset can now access a huge range of options that prepare them for further study and the world of work, and we believe that the merger will also prove to be the catalyst that sees a university established in Somerset for the very first time.

'Understanding the world of work'

The positive decision on Hinkley Point C nuclear power station will also provide a huge boost for young people locally as they start to plan their future careers. We have been highly proactive in harnessing the huge investments being made in our region, and our early partnership work with EDF Energy and its supply chain has resulted in massive public and private investment in bespoke facilities and new curricula. These programmes, delivered in live, industry-standard training environments, address the specific skills gaps that employers identify, whilst also enabling learners to experience and understand workplace safety, cultures and behaviours at first hand, so that they leave college fully understanding the expectations of the world of work. Young people locally are also being given exceptional opportunities for employment, apprenticeships, work placements and work experience with some of the most famous blue-chip companies in the world.

In times of economic restraint and a declining demographic among 16- to 18-year-olds, we are increasingly looking to commercial opportunities to increase our bottom line. The supply chain for Hinkley Point C and other major UK infrastructure projects is not just for blue-chip multinationals – we’re supporting a number of SMEs to up-skill their workforces and forge collaborative partnerships to ensure that contracts are awarded locally. We attribute much of our success and growth to a whole-college approach to employer engagement which has as its core a can-do attitude and a commitment to exceptional customer service.

The TES FE Awards helps to promote and disseminate the excellent work that’s going on in the FE sector, which now finds itself at the forefront of UK economic activity like never before. Today’s school pupils are tomorrow’s skilled technicians, and we’re immensely proud of the work that colleges are doing to create and build young people’s future careers.

Nominations are open for the TES FE Awards 2017, in association with the Education and Training Foundation. In total there are 16 award categories, from teacher of the year and best teaching and learning initiative to lifetime achievement and outstanding use of technology.

Entry is free and open to all FE establishments in the UK. The deadline for entries is midnight on Friday 28 October 2016. The shortlist will be announced on 16 December, and the winners will be revealed on 24 February 2017 in a ceremony at Grosvenor House hotel in London.

For further information, including full details of how to enter, please visit www.tesfeawards.co.uk

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