Lisa Capper
Lisa Capper pictured at the Skills Ready, Future Ready launch event.

Lisa Capper: Learners are at the heart of what we do – and that’s great news for business

3 mins read

Reflecting on her first two years in the role, Stoke on Trent College Principal and CEO Lisa Capper MBE discusses why the college is committed to so much more than just delivering courses and what its new Skills Ready, Future Ready plan means for businesses. 

Over the last two years, I have seen the expanding role this college plays in delivering technical and professional skills for the city and surrounding area.  

Without doubt, we play a huge part in shaping the area’s productivity and providing hope for the future for young people and adults. 

Our new Skills Ready, Future Ready strategic plan sets out the vision and values of what we are trying to achieve over the next three to five years to further secure our role in the community as an anchor institution ‘the Technical College of Stoke-on-Trent and the surrounding area’.  

We have worked hard on producing our new strategic plan with employers, partners, stakeholders, colleagues and our learners to reflect the skills needs of the area.

It takes a really good look at the role further education plays in meeting need, education, the positioning of the college and what we want to achieve over the next three years. We are in a healthy position with a Good Ofsted rating, with good to outstanding financial health, and our teams are primed to deliver on this ambitious strategy and work with our partners and stakeholder to succeed.  

Lisa says the College’s role is not just about delivering courses but providing the skills students need to progress in the modern world.

I’m proud to say that learners are at the heart of what we do. So, we are much more than just a college. Our role is not just about delivering courses and getting people enrolled on them. It is about careers and progression and ensuring people who come here to study leave us with all the skills needed to progress in the modern world.  

Fundamentally, that includes the requirements of employers – the technical and social capability that they need in their workforces. These skills’ needs are rising too – because of automation, AI and digitisation, for example. More than ever before we need to equip our learners with a rounded  set of  skills for the workplace and further study. 

We  need to give them what used to be called softer skills – but I would now refer to as advanced essential skills. These take the form of advanced communication, teamworking and working effectively with technology.  

Lisa with Stoke-on-Trent MPs Jo Gideon and Jack Brereton.

The college also has a primary role for driving social mobility. This is based on the backdrop of deprivation, poverty and stubborn indicators the area is facing, particularly surrounding attainment levels at the end of secondary school and the low numbers of those with a level 3 qualification at aged  19-years.

But if we are going to drive social mobility and increase prosperity, we first need to drive inward investment back into the city. In order to achieve that we need to have a pipeline of skills and potential skilled employees that will attract companies to come here.  

Much of our strategy is concentrated on collaboration and partnership working. There has never been a better time for employers to invest in further education, because the outcome of this will greatly benefit them. 

Our plan is to work with learners to get them Skills Ready. In turn, this will help employers and businesses be Future Ready. To support this, we have introduced four Skills Hubs and 11 specialist academies along with a £14.5 million investment in new buildings and facilities. 

These will drive opportunities in the priority sectors of Construction and Green Technologies, Engineering and STEM, Health and Social Care and Digital and Creative Industries. These hubs will allow our learners the opportunity to better capitalise on fantastic opportunities on the horizon, such as the A50 Corridor development, Ceramic Valley, working with the universities, hospital trusts and the construction sector as well as specialisms in areas such as computing and gaming.

Stoke on Trent College has invested £14.5 million in new buildings and facilities to support its Skills Ready, Future Ready strategy.

We work closely with Staffordshire University, who partner with us on Gaming so that our students can progress through Level, 2, 3, and even 4 – so they are ready to walk into some of the best jobs in the industry. 

The strategy we have outlined has been designed to support the first Local Skills Improvement Plan being delivered by Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, with the shared aim of eradicating poverty, and worklessness. 

We are excited about the future as we will also be looking to deliver higher level skills with Staffordshire University and through the launch of a new Institute of Technology (IoT). The initative was developed by NSCG and Keele University.

Based in Stafford with hubs in the local areas, this will be a partnership with all the FE colleges in the county as well a Keele University. It is one of 13 such institutions set up in the UK by the Department for Education to help deliver skills of Level 4 and above 

Of course, all this groundwork must be shown to be bearing fruit in terms of progression and careers and I am delighted to say that in the last academic year we achieved a 92 per cent progression rate, which means the vast majority of our young people and adult learners progress to employment or other further and higher education opportunities. That figure is up from 85 per cent the year before. 

That is always the real litmus test for us – and the fact we are moving students to the next stage and helping them move up the ladder, shows what we are trying to achieve is really bearing fruit. 

Nigel Pye

Experienced journalist with a 30-year career in the newspaper and PR industry and a proven record for breaking stories for the national and international press. Nigel is the Editor of Daily Focus and Head of Creative at i-creation. Other work includes scriptwriting, magazine and video production, crisis communications and TV and radio broadcasts.

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