Economic benefits of further education highlighted in Yarmouth

Stuart Rimmer, principal Yarmouth College

Stuart Rimmer, principal Yarmouth College - Credit: Archant

Last week, the Great Yarmouth Mercury looked at the impact that further education (FE) has in our community, at a time when budgets are under threat and savings may need to be found.

3Sun Group. Picture: James Bass

3Sun Group. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

Today, we’re focussing on how Great Yarmouth College works with local businesses and affects the economy in the area.

Apprenticeships are currently at the forefront of the government educational agenda, with a pledge to support three million apprenticeships nationally by 2020. FE colleges currently deliver over half of all apprenticeships and work closely with employers and industry sectors to meet skills shortages.

In East Anglia, there are 2100 apprentices between 16 and 18 years old enrolled in the region’s colleges every year, and principal and CEO of Great Yarmouth College, Stuart Rimmer, is proud of his institution’s track record.

“We have particularly strong overall success rates for 16 to 18 year old apprentices in Yarmouth, which have increased to 80.7pc from 71.9pc in 2013-14, that’s 8.1pc above the national average,” he said.

“And while for every £1 invested in FE generally around £18 is returned to the local economy, it jumps to around £40 for an apprenticeship.”

One business benefitting from the college’s apprenticeship commitment is Great Yarmouth-based energy firm, 3Sun Group.

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Training manager at 3Sun, Andy Holyland, liaises with the college and recently helped to get a pre-apprenticeship programme up and running in a partnership with the business and the college. The aim is to give students an insight into the energy and off-shore industry.

“We approached a lot of colleges in the region for the programme and GYC came back with the most suitable, innovative and out-of-the-box ideas,” he said.

“It means students can make an informed decision, because they get an overview of everything they can get involved in, with 12 weeks worth of work experience.”

Previously courses may have been more theory heavy, but the 3Sun partnership course is designed to be more hands on.

“It’s a diverse programme, with practical units,” Mr Holyland added. “With everything from mechanical and electrical, to business engineering, and then students come out with a BTEC in engineering after two years.”

This is the first year the course is running, but it is hoped that students can then progress onto the 3Sun apprenticeship programme, although Mr Holyland stressed this was dependent on the health of the industry.

“It’s not secret that there is a skills shortage,” he said. “And there is a huge benefit to taking on apprentices, especially locally. Our CEO Graham Hacon is very pro-apprentices and he’s very pro-local content.”

“Moving forward, we’re looking to engage even more with the college. It isn’t just apprentices we rely on them for because a lot of our existing staff can be trained here further, in the evenings and part time.”

Mr Rimmer added: “There is no doubt that colleges do an amazing job across the country, educating and training over 3.1m people each year. In addition students aged 19+ in FE generate an additional £75bn for the economy over their lifetimes, that’s a £3b investment for a £75b return! This is because colleges are so effective at developing local workforces; helping businesses and individuals to grow and achieve their potential. We develop character, a sense of place and provide progressive opportunities to those of all ages and abilities.

“And at GYC we believe by forging strong partnerships with local industry we can create relationships of mutual benefit, equipping students with the most appropriate skills and knowledge, providing employers with well aligned, qualified staff and further strengthening the college’s standing as the best college in the area for student success.”