When Carl Groves took over as principal at Fareham college, in south-east Hampshire, it was in the doldrums. He was the fourth principal in a decade and there was a lack of direction and purpose.
Eighteen months on, his leadership has transformed the college. Staff now have a spring in their step and a clear sense of direction. In fact, Mr Groves has made such a difference that Karl Goatley, the college's computer services manager, has nominated him for a STAR award - the Government-backed "Oscars" created this year to reward outstanding performance among the 600,000 people working in the learning and skills sector.
Fareham college had been in decline for years, said Mr Goatley. "Since taking up his post over a year ago, Carl Groves has transformed the organisation. The staff structure now makes sense. Planning processes are methodical and meaningful, staff commitment has improved immeasurably and everybody has a clear understanding of the college's vital role in the community. In more than 40 years in management, he is the most inspiring leader I have come across. On the computer services side, he has given me clear direction as to what we need to do for the future and allowed me to get on with it."
Good changes followed, not only in IT, but also in estates management, student services and other areas throughout the college. "Carl's managerial skills, coupled with his commitment to success make him a true STAR," said Mr Goatley. He is nominated for an award in the "managers and leaders" category. Two other award categories are "lecturers, trainers and tutors" and "support staff".
Mr Groves is pleased, surprised and embarrassed by the nomination. He feels he has put the college in a better position to serve its local community.
"My nomination is a sign of the college management and staff feeling a sense of direction," he said, "and of being optimistic about the future, feeling there is a better fit between the college and the community's needs".
Another nomination in the leaders and managers category is Yvonne Richardson, education manager at HM Prison Shrewsbury. Tony Birch, head of resettlement at the prison, says she is a STAR of the Shropshire Learning and Skills sector.
"She manages a relatively small education department with scant resources that punches well above its weight," he said. Ms Richardson demonstrated a commitment to improving the basic skills of prison inmates, many of whom have historically rejected education as a positive life experience.
"Yvonne, I am sure, would say that the personal reward she gets when a small step is taken by someone with a very poor level of education is reward enough for her endeavours. However, I feel she deserves wider recognition for the dedication she has shown over the past six years in delivering the seemingly impossible."
Carol Lively, a teaching assistant at Bottisham Youth and Community Centre in Cambridgeshire, is up for a support staff award thanks to Susan Owen, the centre's programme co-ordinator. The centre is for young people and adults with social communications difficulties, such as Asperger's syndrome.
Since Ms Lively joined the programme, Ms Owen says "she has proved to be reliable, caring, organised and calm, showing no outward anxiety in difficult situations with what can be a very demanding group of people".
Another nominee in the support staff category is Jane Fisher, educational support co-ordinator at Keighley College. She is nominated by Jim Pemberton, a college student who, two years ago, was registered as blind.
Ms Fisher "opened a new world for me by introducing me to computers. She encouraged me and watched my progress," he added.
In the lecturers, trainers and tutors category, Natalie Goodwin, an admin officer at Bolton Community College, has nominated Karen Jackson, a work-based assessor at the college. Natalie recently completed a Modern Apprenticeship in Business Administration at the college and Ms Jackson was her assessor.
Ms Goodwin describes Ms Jackson as "approachable, patient and extremely helpful". In addition, "Jackson believes in her learners so that they believe in themselves".
Tracy Barnes, a deaf lecturer at Wisbech's Isle College, is nominated for a similar award by Veronica Wiltshire, head of student services. Ms Wiltshire says that Ms Barnes "is a role model to both students and staff as an individual who has overcome her disability to succeed in the hearing world".
All the nominees know that, with more than a 1,600 people up for awards, of whom 130 will be shortlisted for prizes this autumn - pound;1,000 plus a trophy and certificate, competition is going to be tough.