Colleges Combine to Tackle Exclusion

A consortium of Further Education colleges in the West Midlands has secured £710,000 of new funding from the Department for Education to support people at work who find it difficult to access traditional college courses. Dudley College of Technology, on behalf of The West Midlands Further Education Group, submitted a successful bid which aims to provide a new and integrated package of online, flexible and blended learning support for people in the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) region. The following ten colleges will be actively involved in developing the new package and rolling it out to learners across the region:

  • Birmingham Metropolitan College
  • City of Wolverhampton College
  • Coventry College
  • Dudley College of Technology
  • Halesowen College
  • North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College
  • Solihull College
  • South and City College
  • Walsall College
  • Warwickshire College

The online packages will support employment sectors which are integral to growing regional productivity or where there are known skills gaps and significant opportunities for employment progression through upskilling. These sectors will include: Construction, Automotive Engineering, Digital media and Health and Care. Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, welcomed the investment saying: “Improving the skills base of our region is an absolute priority for the West Midlands Combined Authority. We know that many people, who are in work, find it difficult to access the training they need to improve their skills and future career prospects. We are delighted that the FE Group has secured this funding and will work closely with them in developing the programme.” The development of the training platform and packages will begin immediately with the aim that learners can begin to train through the new service from March 2019.

Commenting on the joint nature of the work which will see leading colleges in the region working together, Peter Bramall, Principal Coventry College said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with others in improving online access to our programmes. We see technology based solutions as key to providing a better service.” Echoing the importance of the collective approach, John Callaghan, Principal Solihull College commented: “Flexible and blended learning an increasingly important part of our college offer. This funding will enable us to do more, more quickly and in partnership, not competition with others.”

Noting the importance of developing a way for learners to study at a time and place that suits their needs, which may include their own home or in designated facilities in their workplace, Jat Sharma, Principal Walsall College commented: “This college takes pride in its commitment to inclusiveness – everyone should have access to quality learning. This programme enables us to work with others to achieve this aim across the whole region. ” By creating new content and ways of accessing information the scheme aims to boost participation and provide greater opportunities for individuals who wouldn’t access a traditional college course.