The new principal at Lancaster & Morecambe College is aiming to build on existing foundations and help strengthen the bond between the college and local industry.
Wes Johnson took over the reins before Easter following the retirement of David Wood after 14 years’ service, during which time he oversaw the financial recovery and sustainability of the college and a four year redevelopment of the site.
Mr Johnson now hopes to further increase the college’s importance to the local community and employers.
The college has 1,300 full-time students and 1,900 part-time, most of whom are 16-18 years old.
And the new principal has vowed to ensure that as many of them as possible leave with skills that will help boost the local economy.
Mr Johnson, who lives in High Bentham with his partner Angela and two sons, said: “This has been my local college for the last 12 years.
“I have watched the college closely and realised how much it is valued by the local community and how important it will be moving forward to the community and economy.
“I think a highly skilled workforce is going to be crucial and a key element of my role going forward will be connecting with employers to ensure the college is meeting their needs in terms of the courses we offer and shaping our curriculum for the students.
“Who better to help us shape our curriculum than the future employers of our students? We want to be working hand in hand with them so that the students are instantly an asset when they leave here.
Alongside basic transferable skills such as timekeeping, Mr Johnson aims to use the college’s industry standard facilities to ensure that students are as up-to-date as possible with their training.
“The connection with local businesses is vital in my experience,” he said. “Knowing that employers know what we can offer. and understanding what their expectations of the college are and that they can have a hand in what we create here.
“Putting employers in the driving seat when it comes to what they want is absolutely right and I would really encourage local employers to work with us to support their community rather than looking further afield.
“This college belongs to the community and I want local employers to engage with us.
“It’s worth them investing their time in the college to help shape our provision in terms of meeting the needs of their industry.
“We can work hand in hand to make a positive impact in the community.
“It’s so important that we don’t just turn out a student that’s not fit for purpose; it’s important that they are an asset.”
Mr Johnson said he will be building on a strong foundation left by Mr Wood.
In 2016 the college was named in the top five per cent of further education colleges in the country as part of a Further Education Choices Employer satisfaction survey’s employer satisfaction survey, with a score of 95.8 per cent.
“It’s now about taking that forward to the next level,” Mr Johnson said.
“It’s a real privilege to be a part of changing lives in your own community; that was a key attraction for me.
“The big reward from this job is seeing the impact we can have, and the difference you make when you get it right.
“I have a vision of making sure the college meets the needs of the community and its employers, that we are seen as the solution and the best opportunity in terms of generating the skilled workforce of the future.
“I want this college to be seen as a real community asset.”