Capital City College Group at the Labour Party Conference

On Monday 26 September, Capital City College Group (CCCG) hosted a breakfast event at the Labour Party Conference in partnership with the London business advocacy group BusinessLDN (previously London First). The event brought together political and business leaders, and education providers, for a discussion on how the levelling-up agenda can tackle the UK’s skills shortages.

CCCG’s Executive Principal Kurt Hintz, and Vice Principal for The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) Robin Hindley, represented the group at the meeting, where we invited MPs, local councillors and council leaders, and business representatives from across the country, to share their experiences and recommendations on how we can help sort the UK’s skills crisis.

Labour Party Conference – what is it? And why were we there?

All the leading political parties in the UK hold an annual conference, bringing together party members, politicians and businesses alike to discuss party priorities, policy positions and other important topics. They are an excellent opportunity for organisations like CCCG to raise awareness of important issues, influence politicians with our key policy ‘asks’, and connect with industry colleagues and develop new sector relationships.

This year Labour returned to Liverpool, with a packed timetable of events, meetings and speeches, from Sunday 25 to Wednesday 28 September 2022. We held our breakfast event on Monday 25 September, during the first ‘Business’ day of the conference, at the historic Albert Dock.

The event

John Dickie, BusinessLDN’s Chief Executive, chaired the event. BusinessLDN work with businesses across the capital and have recently won the bid to run Greater London’s Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) which will collaborate with employers, training and education providers, and local stakeholders to tackle London’s skills shortages. We will be playing a key role in the LSIP’s work.

Kurt Hintz led the discussion and explained the importance of further education to levelling up and skills. He highlighted three key priorities to give further education colleges the best opportunity to deliver the highest quality skills training for their students:

  1. Providing free courses for adults at Level 4 and 5;
  2. Devolving the adult education and skills budget; and
  3. Increasing the flexibility of the Apprenticeship Levy.

Firstly, cost is a huge barrier to adults in taking on education. Many earn less than the London living wage, so they have no spare money to spend on gaining qualifications. But as Kurt explained during the discussion, when we removed this barrier and offered free qualifications up to Level 3 for adults in 2014, we saw an increase of 30% in the number of adult learners the following year and each year after that.

We’re pleased that Government funding for adult courses up to level 3 has caught up with our idea, and these courses are now free to most people, but we would like the Government to go further and enable adults who want to study for Level 4 and 5 skills-based qualifications – including professional qualifications like those offered by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – to have their education free as well. Doing this will enable many more adults to up-skill, which can only be a good thing for people and for the wider economy.

Secondly, devolving the adult skills budget (currently only London and the mayoral combined authorities, including West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Liverpool, enjoy this freedom) will give local areas more freedom in how they prioritise their skills spending. For example, the flexibility given to CCCG by the Greater London Authority (GLA) on some of our adult skills budget has been key to providing our students with the highest quality training, based on demand and industry need. This sort of working relationship is good practice for other parts of the country.

And thirdly, Kurt spoke about the worrying drop in apprenticeship starts since the COVID-19 pandemic, identifying Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as struggling the most to take on apprentices. He recommended increasing the flexibility of the apprenticeship levy by allowing unspent levy money to cover the cost of wages for employees during the first year of apprenticeships.

Other guests offered interesting contributions to the discussions. Richard Bonner, Northern Cities Executive at Arcadis, spoke on the huge deficit in skills in the construction industry, and the mismatch between industry requirements and what training colleges are providing. CCCG consider links with employers as critical to offering our students the best possible provision in their industry.

One example is CONEL’s partnership Ardmore Construction – one of the largest family-owned construction groups in the UK – to develop the London Welding Academy. CONEL worked with Ardmore to develop a Welding Level 3 Apprenticeship training programme at the college to help fill the skills gap exacerbated by COVID-19 and Brexit. CONEL created space for the programme and Ardmore provided the high-quality welding equipment.

Henri Murison, CEO of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), emphasised the need to spend money on skills more efficiently and effectively before throwing more money at a system which is already failing to deliver; Josie Cluer, Partner at EY, called attention to the need to fix the skills shortage before we can level up, as people are lacking the skills required to fill current vacancies.

In addition, the Mayor of Newham, Rokshana Fiaz, highlighted that even in London – which in levelling-up terms is economically thriving – there are huge pockets of crippling poverty and inequality.

The need for levelling-up within London is something our Chief Executive Roy O’Shaughnessy, commented on back in February, when the Government released their long awaited Levelling-Up White Paper. London as a region has the highest poverty rates compared to any other region in the UK, with 27% of all residents living in poverty – at CCCG around 67% of our students are in the bottom three bands of social deprivation – this is why tackling the skills shortage and levelling-up our communities is central to the training and education we deliver.

On to the next Party Conference …

With the Labour Party Conference wrapping up today, we turn our attention to Birmingham where we will be heading next week for the Conservative Party Conference. There we will host a whole new set of guests to continue our discussions on Levelling-Up and skills.

Students celebrate success at first Capital City College Group Excellence Awards

Students and apprentices celebrated a year of outstanding achievements at the first Capital City College Group (CCCG) Excellence Awards.

Around 60 awards were presented to learners in recognition of their hard work, commitment and success over the past year at a glittering ceremony at Tobacco Dock in East London.

Students from City and Islington College (CANDI), Westminster Kingsway College (WestKing) and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL), and apprenticeship and training provider Capital City College Training (CCCT) all received awards.

Awards were also presented to participants of entrepreneurship programme Visionnaires, which started within CCCG in 2019, and 01 Founders, a coding school launched with CCCG in 2021.

Organisations that work with CCCG were also honoured. Arsenal in the Community received a Community Recognition Award while Nominet and Building Heroes/Regal London were handed Employer Partner Awards.

The ceremony was compèred by Kamal Ellis-Hyman, Founder and Director of Aim A Little Higher, which runs personal development programmes for young people across the UK.

Alastair Da Costa, Chair of CCCG, welcomed the award winners and their families and presented the awards along with Jasbir Sondhi, Vice Principal of WestKing, and David Dangana, Director of Group Quality and Compliance.

He said: “Excellence is hard work realised. It takes dedication, perseverance, overcoming frustrations and doubts. Realising excellence requires support from friends and family, it requires picking up when you are down, and it is right to celebrate achievement and success with friends and loved ones.

“This evening, I want to thank you all for being excellent, whether you win an award, are supporting those who win an award or whether you have taught and helped those in this room to realise their potential.”

Awards were presented to students from across CCCG’s provision including many who had achieved success at college and overcome major challenges during their studies.

Among the award winners was Vivek Quissor who gained a triple-starred Distinction in his Public Services diploma at CANDI and was praised for the quality of his well-researched assignments and being an inspiration to other students.

Vivek, 18, who is now studying for a BA (Hons) Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Greenwich, said: “My lecturers provided an outstanding level of teaching throughout the length of my course. I credit my success to them. They left no stone unturned when it came to making sure that assignment work was completed to the highest of standards.”

Also picking up an award was Mariana Ghertan who completed her Healthcare Support Worker apprenticeship with CCCT despite catching COVID twice and suffering family bereavement.

Mariana, 36, said: “My tutor was the most incredible support. She encouraged me not to give up and offered me more time. I spoke to my husband and sons who had seen how much hard work I had put in. They said that my mum was proud of me and would have wanted me to finish, so I did.”

Tyler Minter, 24, wanted to start a Rail Engineering apprenticeship with Alstom and CONEL after learning he was to become a dad. He was described by his tutors as “an exceptional student” who produces a high standard of work and is a perfect role model to his peers.

He said: “I love the fact that I’m learning while also getting hands on experience. I’m gaining knowledge that is vital to the job and putting it to use in a practical sense. I’m also not getting into debt like a lot of people who go to university do, and I’m earning a good salary.”

The final award of the night was the CCCG Inspiration Award, which was presented to CANDI Art and Design diploma student Georgiana Guias, who was praised by her teachers for her dedication, intelligence and enthusiasm, as well as her support for her peers.

Georgiana, 18, who is now studying a BA (Hons) Architecture at Central Saint Martins, said: “It’s a big surprise to get this award because everybody on the course worked hard. The course was challenging but I got to learn new skills and techniques and the teachers were friendly and supportive of me and other students.”

The ceremony also featured live performances by Music Performance and Production students from CANDI and WestKing.

CANDI students Beth Cook, 18, Gloria Elubode, 17, and Ralph Heywood, 17, performed their own composition entitled Faith and Strength is the Key.

WestKing students Gabi Reece, 18, and Isabelle Linehan, 17, together known as The Park, performed their own work called She’ll Stay.

Hospitality and Culinary Arts students from WestKing served canapés at the event with front of house service run by WestKing’s Travel and Tourism students and CONEL’s Public Service students.

The ceremony was sponsored by Apogee, NCFE, OCN London, Gateway Qualifications, Dar Group, insight6, Learning Curve Group, Candor Professional Beauty Academy, ESB, GLL, SFEDI Group and 3Drakes.

Roy O’Shaughnessy, CEO of CCCG, described the evening as “absolutely incredible and inspiring” as he congratulated the award winners, staff, sponsors and organisers of the event.

He said: “I want to congratulate our staff, students, their families and friends and thank them for making this evening such a wonderful success. It is such a privilege to look around this room and see students, teachers and staff from across the Group, sitting here today and celebrating the hard, hard work of those that we’ve honoured, so really, truly well done.

“We wouldn’t have been here without our sponsors, and I would like to thank them on behalf of our staff, students, staff and governors.  Your work means that at CCCG we not only can offer courses and programmes, but we are able to work with employers to give opportunities for our students to create the future for London.”

Find out more about our wide range of courses and apprenticeships here.

Queen Elizabeth II: 1926 – 2022

Like a great many people here and around the world, we are saddened over the passing of Her Majesty The Queen.

During her long reign – the second longest reign of any monarch of a sovereign state – we were honoured to welcome Her Majesty to one of our colleges. And over the years, our colleges have been awarded Queen’s Anniversary Prizes, and colleagues and students were recognised in various Birthday and New Year honours lists.

Roy O’Shaughnessy, CEO of Capital City College Group said:

“It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Her Majesty The Queen and our deepest condolences go to the Royal Family.

“The Queen was a constant part of our lives for 70 years and her passing will affect our staff and students in different ways. We are offering support to those who may need it, for whatever reason, at this sad time.”

Visit to CANDI’s Centre for Applied Sciences

In 2011 The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited City and Islington College’s Centre for Applied Sciences. During the visit the Queen unveiled two plaques marking the official opening of the college’s Animal Care Centre and an accreditation by the National Skills Academy Process Industries which recognised the college as a Centre of Excellence for Biotechnology.

Her Majesty saw some of the animals at the centre and was given a tour of the college’s forensics, optics and sports science provision, which included a mock crime scene being investigated by students.

Queen’s Anniversary Prizes

Two of our colleges have been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. These awards are presented every two years to universities and colleges that have shown excellence in quality and innovation, in providing real benefits to the world through education and training.

In 2007, CANDI received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for creating Pathways to Employment and Higher Education in the Sciences. At the time, City and Islington was the only college to have received this accolade twice, having previously received the award in 1994, for widening access and progression to higher education.

Westminster Kingsway College has been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education – in 2015, for collaboration and innovation in the culinary arts.  At the time, then Principal Andy Wilson said: “The award of the prize to Westminster Kingsway College is one of the greatest moments in the college’s long history. It is recognition of many staff, students and employers who have been involved with the college over the years.” In 2016 a plaque commemorating the award was unveiled at the college’s Victoria Centre.

Queen’s New Year and Birthday Honours

Here are some of our staff and alumni who have been honoured by The Queen over the years:

  • Garth Crooks – The former Tottenham Hotspur striker and BBC football pundit studied at CONEL and was awarded an OBE in 1999.
  • Timothy Spall – The Bafta-nominated actor, known for his many screen roles including five Harry Potter films, attended WestKing and received an OBE in 2000.
  • Audley Harrison – The British former super-heavyweight boxer and Olympic gold medallist attended CONEL and was awarded an MBE in 2001.
  • Trevor Nelson – The DJ and radio presenter on BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Radio 2 who attended WestKing, was awarded an MBE in 2002.
  • Jamie Oliver – The celebrity chef and restauranteur trained at WestKing and was made an MBE in 2003 for services to the hospitality industry.
  • Pablo Lloyd – The CEO of Visionnaires, a programme started within CCCG to help aspiring entrepreneurs start new businesses, was made an OBE in 2019.

Our deepest condolences to the Royal Family. HM Queen Elizabeth II 1926 – 2022.

Liz Truss is our new Prime Minister, but what are her views on further education and skills?

Announcements so far this year indicated that Boris Johnson’s administration understood the need to boost skills and technical education following Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. As a further education college group, this is very welcome, as we know how vital colleges are to the Government’s skills agenda.

But will this continue under Liz Truss’s leadership?

We’ve taken a dive into her views and actions on further education, skills and apprenticeships, during her parliamentary career.

Liz Truss is, we believe, the first Prime Minister to have attended a comprehensive school – Roundhay School in Leeds. During the leadership race she said that the quality of education she received there “let down” students, with its “low expectations, poor educational standards and lack of opportunity” – assertions which have been disputed by someone who was at the school with her. And, however poor it may have been, her schooling did help her get into Oxford University, where she read the same subject (Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE)) as her leadership rival Rishi Sunak.

In 2011, she expressed her opinions on technical education. She wrote in Conservative Home that England was behind other developed countries on the amount of academic training required for technical jobs. Where English and maths are only a requirement to take until 16 years old in the UK, pupils in similar countries must take them until they are 18. At the time, she said she supported an English Baccalaureate and believed this should be an option for all students.

Liz Truss has some education Ministerial experience. She was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare from September 2012 to July 2014, when her responsibilities included qualifications, assessments and curriculum reform, behaviour and attendance. During her tenure, in 2013, she announced proposals to reform A Levels by scrapping AS levels and having the examinations at the end of the two-year course. She also fought to improve British standards in maths.

During the leadership race Truss ‘pitched’ herself as the “education prime minister”, saying:

“my mission in politics is to give every child, every person, the best opportunity to succeed, and for their success in life to depend solely on their hard work and talents, not their background or where they are from” – such opportunity she ‘alleges’ were not initially available to her.

Recent proposals on education

It has been reported that Truss told the 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs that if she became Prime Minister, she would end the ban on grammar schools. This proposal is welcomed by many – especially in the Conservative party – but there is evidence to suggest that while grammar schools may stretch brighter pupils, they increase inequality overall as the attainment of other pupils in other schools suffers.

On universities, she has proposed that all students who receive 3 A*s at A-Level to automatically be offered an interview at Oxford or Cambridge University, to make Oxbridge more accessible. This idea has already faced criticism, as those who attend private schools and the best state schools are more likely to achieve such grades – inevitably still excluding less-privileged students.

She has also stated that she would reform the university admissions system to a post-qualification admission system – meaning that students apply to university after they receive their A-Level results, rather than getting offers based off predicted grades. A post-qualification admission system has already failed to gain support in Parliament due to the additional bureaucracy and pressure on institutions and the academic calendar.

Looking forward

Mrs Truss and her new Ministerial team have a large in-tray. With the cost of living crisis raging, the NHS in trouble and the prospect of a multi-year, multi-billion pound bill to stave-off the worst effects of the energy crisis, it is perhaps not surprising that the government do not yet have a solid plan to support further education and enable it to deliver the skills that UK plc needs.

And her proposed tax cuts might make matters worse. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the proposed tax cuts and corporate tax incentives, will initially lead to a loss of at least £30billion per year in tax receipts – losses which will probably not be offset by the rise in investment that she anticipates would result.

At CCCG we will be sure to engage with the new Prime Minister, as well as her new Secretary of State for Education Kit Malthouse (welcome to the best job in Government!) and his education Ministerial team – to do all we can to share with them the importance of further education to the future skills of our population and our nation’s success.

Three asks that we think should be on the new PM’s desk, addressing further education and skills are:

  1. Free courses for adults up to Level 4
  2. Allowing for greater operational freedom for further education colleges to help them to be more financially sustainable organisations
  3. A real focus on apprenticeships and reforming the apprenticeship levy, to make apprenticeships more accessible to Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) and students.

We are hosting a breakfast event at the Conservative Party Conference on Monday 3rd October in partnership with BusinessLDN (formally London First). We have invited key Conservative stakeholders, education providers and businesses to discuss levelling up and the skills agenda, so we look forward to these conversations and where the attendees see the education and skills sector going forward.