2017 will go down as a tough but successful year characterised by a relentless focus on, and strong improvements to, our quality, relevance and finances.
I am now in my fourth year as the CEO of an organisation with colleges in Lincoln, Gainsborough and Newark as well as two International Technical Colleges in Saudi Arabia and commercial partnerships with the Ministry of Justice and several colleges in China.
I have been working now for over 31 years and have worked in four sectors: business, defence, criminal justice and education. Frankly, I have had some tough jobs. My current job is the toughest job I have ever had; it is also the most rewarding.
During the past year, we have been focused relentlessly on improving the quality of the learning, teaching and assessment across all three of our UK colleges, with a very sharp focus improving English and mathematics.
Some context for readers might be useful… We deliver education and skills training for people from the age of 16 with no upper age limit. We deliver further education (technical and vocational) across every single skills area, up to and including Level 3 (A-Level equivalent). We deliver GCSEs and A Levels. And we deliver higher education up to and including Bachelors degrees in a wide range of subjects.
Please believe me when I say that is a great deal of volume and a lot of complexity. I am really pleased to say that during 2017 we made very strong improvements across the vast majority of our provision; equally, we know that we are not perfect and we are continuing to strive to improve.
Changing the focus and direction of a college is not straightforward as our students are obviously linked into an annual, two-year or three-year programme (potentially up to six years with us).
Notwithstanding, during the past year we opened new programmes for the defence sector (including the Royal Air Force and many defence companies), the electrical services and retail sector (working with the FTSE 100 Dixons-Carphone Group) and the construction sector with a new programme in Gainsborough.
These new programmes are at the vanguard of us delivering our mission of being ‘Employer-led; producing a highly skilled and productive local workforce’.
We have a lot more to do to ensure that our provision is what local and regional employers want and need.
After two previous years of investment in our international and commercial division, we had a strong financial year. We are building on that solid financial performance in order to create additional funding for our colleges so that we can invest in our existing programmes and create new programmes that employers need; this includes investment in the priority skills defined by the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, especially digital technology… look out for more news on this in January.
Our strategy is entitled ‘Our Journey to Extraordinary’. This is our commitment to our local communities and it will be for our communities to judge whether we achieve that standard.
We know that we are not there yet; but we are all working tremendously hard to ensure that we deliver as much as we can for our communities, to the highest possible quality.
As we approach Christmas, I know that our people are running very low on energy having given their absolute all during 2017; I am so proud of what they have achieved by their clarity of purpose underpinned by dogged determination and unswerving commitment. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our staff and governors for their dedication and hard work.
In truth, 2018 looks like another tough year, but I am confident that we have the mindset, fortitude and resilience to confront the myriad of challenges that we face.