WestKing and Central District Alliance host Careers and Enterprise Day

Jobseekers had the chance to find out more about new employment opportunities and gaining work skills when they attended a Careers and Enterprise Day at Westminster Kingsway College.

The event was run with the Central District Alliance (CDA) business improvement district, which is partnering the college’s Mayor of London Digital and Hospitality Academy Hubs that launched earlier this year.

The CDA represents more than 400 businesses in central London and has backed the hubs to help its members upskill their staff and recruit new talent in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic.

Mayor of Camden Cllr Nasim Ali was the special guest at the event at the college’s King’s Cross Centre, which was held to coincide with Global Entrepreneurship Week last month.

CCCG’s apprenticeship and training provider Capital City College Training and entrepreneurship programme Visionnaires, a subsidiary of CCCG, were also present at the event.

Among the other organisations that attended were Transport for London, Camden Council, Metropolitan Police, London Fire Brigade, DHL, Cutlass Security Group, Bidvest Noonan, London Communications Agency and Digital Influx.

There were also stands from several hospitality and entertainment businesses including Pret, Shaftesbury Theatre, Travelodge, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Imperial London Hotels, Kimpton Fitzroy London and Strand Palace.

Visitors had the opportunity to attend employability sessions with Samsung, LinkedIn and Edwardian Hotels, and have free professional headshots taken for their LinkedIn profiles.

Fashion and Communication Level 3 Diploma students modelled outfits for a fashion show sponsored by Dress for Success and Burton, which included advice on how to dress for a job interview.

There were also live demonstrations from students from the college’s School for Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria.

Attendees also had chance to win a tablet or one of several mobile phones in a prize draw.

Find out more information and apply for courses and apprenticeships at CCCG here.

Former WestKing Hospitality student named runner-up in UK Receptionist of the Year

A former Westminster Kingsway College hospitality student has been named runner-up in the AICR UK Receptionist of the Year competition.

Emily Gilson-Jones, 19, who works at the five-star Pan Pacific London hotel in the City, came second out of 10 finalists at a ceremony at Hotel Café Royal in Regent Street on 14 November.

She said: “It’s a huge shock to be named as one of the best receptionists in the UK, but one of the best achievements of my career so far.

“When they announced the second runner-up as the girl from Four Seasons, I thought I haven’t got a chance, but then they announced me as the first runner-up. Suddenly, they handed me a certificate and I was in tears. I’m still gobsmacked to be honest. It has only just started to sink in.”

Emily achieved a triple-starred Distinction in her Hospitality Level 3 Diploma at WestKing in 2021 and was one of two students to share the college’s Best Hospitality Student of the Year award that year.

She began her hospitality career working part-time in front and back of house roles at the Roslin Beach Hotel in her hometown of Southend-on-Sea while she was studying at college.

After finishing her diploma, Emily worked as a Private Events Waitress for The Connaught in Mayfair before joining Pan Pacific London as a Front Desk Agent in March this year.

“I loved my time at WestKing. Even when everything went online during the pandemic, we were still doing all our classes and working as a team and all of the college tutors supported us,” she said.

“By the time it came to the graduation ceremony I couldn’t believe it was over. I wanted to stay on for another two years and do it all again.”

Emily was among a group of students at WestKing who provided catering and hospitality for a schools’ event at 10 Downing Street to mark International Women’s Day just prior to lockdown.

“I remember thinking this is quite overwhelming but really cool, I’m 16 years old and I am having the opportunity to do this,” said Emily, who along with other students met then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other political figures on the day.

“My connection at The Connaught was also through the college. If I hadn’t gone to WestKing I wouldn’t be where I am now, because if The Connaught wasn’t on my CV I wouldn’t have got the opportunity at Pan Pacific.

“I’m working at a five-star hotel, which wouldn’t have happened if I had just walked out of school with A Levels and then decided I wanted to work in hospitality. WestKing gave me my first real stepping stone on my hospitality journey. I wouldn’t change it.”

Emily learnt she was among the finalists in October following an interview with AICR UK committee members after she was nominated by Nicole Cechmann, Front of House Manager at Pan Pacific.

“The team I work alongside at Pan Pacific is one of the best teams I’ve ever worked in,” said Emily. 

“For a business to be successful you need to work as a team, and when you get on with the team you work with, it makes it so much easier.

“It’s also nice when guests are checking in and excited about their stay, and when they leave and they tell you their experience has lived up to or gone beyond their expectations. That is probably one of the most rewarding things. It’s the reason we work in the industry.”

The AICR (Amicale Internationale des Sous Directeurs et Chefs de Réception des Grand Hôtel) was founded by the receptionists of several hotels on the Côte d’Azur in France in 1964.

AICR UK was formed when the Association of Front Office Management (UK) joined the AICR in 1989, three years after the association was established in 1986.

Liane Bhalla, Lecturer in Hospitality, Food and Beverage and Supervision, said: “We are all super proud that Emily has finished as the first runner-up in the AICR Best Receptionist UK 2022.

“At college she showed huge potential. She was always bubbly and enthusiastic, going above and beyond what was required of her in her assignment and practical sessions in the training restaurants and happy to volunteer to take part in other events. She was clearly destined for a fantastic career in hospitality.”

Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses here.

Young chef ‘humbled and proud’ to win Compass Group’s Apprentice of the Year

A “phenomenal” young chef from Westminster Kingsway College has been named Apprentice of the Year 2022 at Compass Group UK & Ireland’s Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards.

Dylan Patel, 25, who is undertaking a Chef de Partie Level 3 Apprenticeship at Compass Group’s head office in Chertsey, Surrey, won the award in the Retail, Hospitality and Tourism category.

The awards showcase the huge talent and hard work within multicultural communities that is made possible through the contribution and support of employers and education providers.

Dylan, from Hounslow, who started his culinary career on a Commis Chef Level 2 Apprenticeship, said: “I am so humbled and proud to being named the winner of this award.

“Taking on this apprenticeship has allowed me to follow my passion, balancing learning with practical work whilst getting paid. I love being part of the team here and learning from others around me.

“There is always something new to uncover and that’s what I enjoy most about being a chef and I hope to build my knowledge further, as I continue this exciting journey.”

Compass Group UK & Ireland is part of Compass Group, the largest contract catering company in the world employing 500,000 people and serving 5.5 billion meals to 55,000 clients each year.

Jonathan Foot, Head of Apprenticeships and Early Careers at Compass Group UK & Ireland, congratulated Dylan on his “wonderful achievement.”

He further praised Dylan’s “phenomenal efforts” as he has progressed in his career and described him as a great role model for anyone looking to start an apprenticeship.

Tom Damen, Chef Lecturer at WestKing, said: “Each week at college I see Dylan’s commitment to improving his culinary skills. Through his apprenticeship at Compass Group he has excelled to a new level of professionalism and confidence.

“I would like to congratulate him on wining Compass Group’s Apprentice of the Year, which is so well deserved. He is an outstanding young chef and destined to go far in the industry.”

Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts apprenticeships here.

Helping Londoners into great digital and hospitality jobs

On Wednesday 21 September, Capital City College Group (CCCG) and Central District Alliance (CDA) came together to celebrate the launch of the Mayor of London Academy Hubs in the Digital and Hospitality industries. The Hubs are a key part of the Mayor’s Academy Hub programme – a £44 million initiative to support the capital’s recovery from the pandemic.

They were joined by London’s Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, Jules Pipe, and employer partners who are working with the Group and CDA to deliver the Academy Hubs’ work.

Supporting Londoners into work for the first time or into higher paid and more secure work – especially from under-represented groups such as minority ethnic communities, women and disabled people – is a key priority for London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan. The Digital and Hospitality Hubs will work with employers to train Londoners for work in those industries, helping them meet their staffing and recruitment challenges.

Having strong Digital and Hospitality sectors will be critical to London’s recovery. For example, the hospitality industry employs around 400,000 people in London, but the lack of suitable and trained staff means there are too many vacancies which is costing the sector billions in lost revenue.

CDA is the Business Improvement District for Holborn and Clerkenwell. Its footprint, which spans Holborn and Clerkenwell, is also home to a world-leading tech cluster, including household names such as Google, TikTok, Snapchat and LinkedIn. These employers – alongside hundreds of others in the CDA district and across the city – can provide a range of jobs and career opportunities for Londoners and so CCCG, working collaboratively with CDA, will establish partnerships to facilitate these new roles.

However, 210,000 people are currently unemployed in London and a further 1,080,000 adults – some 21.7% of the working age population – are economically inactive. So, the Academy Hubs’ role will be to unlock the valuable contribution that businesses can bring and enable more socially-excluded Londoners to gain employment.

As Jules Pipe explained at the event: “The inequalities that were already present in London were laid bare by the pandemic. Over 750,000 working people in London are still paid less than the London Living Wage and more than a quarter of Londoners are living in poverty once their housing costs are taken into account.

“We’re committed to using the skills funding that we have at our disposal to support Londoners – particularly the most disadvantaged and those most impacted by the pandemic – to acquire the skills they need to progress in life and get into good work.

“I’d like to congratulate all the partners for the leadership shown by the CDA and Capital City College Group for making this possible.”

Also speaking at the event, Alexander Jan, Chair of Central District Alliance (CDA) said: “We want to ensure sustainable and inclusive economic growth, which means delivering skills and employment opportunities for our communities.

“We need some big ideas and collective action, and we very much believe that connecting and encouraging people back into the labour market and to help people who are looking for work gain the skills they need to do so, is at the heart of that approach.

“We and our members are delighted to be working with Capital City College Group, to help provide long-term unemployed people with opportunities to gain good quality jobs and helping them gain the skills they need to do so.”

Westminster Kingsway College is part of Capital City College Group and already runs a wide range of courses in the hospitality and digital sectors. The Group is therefore ideally placed to support even more Londoners into these exciting industries. To illustrate the transformative effect that skills training can have, current and former students from the college also spoke at the event about their experiences.

Opeoluwa Odutayo studied Culinary Arts at Westminster Kingsway College, before setting up Ice Cream and Ting, which produces ice creams with Caribbean and African flavours, including Plantain, Hibiscus, and Avocado and Strawberry.

She said: “My teachers at Westminster Kingsway College helped me with advice and boosted my confidence. I worked at events and did internships at four different restaurants to gain experience and at the end of my course, I won the overall best student award. My mum was so proud of me!”

The college also exposes students to industries that they will be working in when they have qualified – helping them gain contacts and eventually secure good quality work.

Student in Hospitality Archie Smitton said: “Working at events with the college helps me get contacts in the industry and work out where in the industry I want to work.

“Last year I did work experience in a Peruvian restaurant in Green Park and a modern English restaurant in Soho and later this year I’m going to Lisbon for two weeks’ work experience.  I’m really looking forward to learning a different language and working in a different country.”

The Hubs have already started work – holding taster sessions and introductory courses hosted by industry experts. These have been in, for example, culinary skills, coding for women, digital marketing, cyber security and user experience (UX) design.

In addition, the Digital Hub will be running internship programmes which will come with additional support including employability training, ongoing support, advice, and guidance on getting the most out of the programme, as well as support for interns to build their network and prepare for their next steps.

And the Hospitality Hub is working with Westminster TalentServe (Westminster City Council’s new recruitment service for its hospitality and leisure businesses) to provide all the training to people who are referred to the service.

You can find out more about the Digital and Hospitality hubs and all our Mayor of London Skills Academies here.

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.

CCCT’s Managing Director Jackie Chapman speaks to Parliamentarians on Apprenticeships in the House of Commons

Jackie Chapman, Managing Director of Capital City College Training (CCCT), spoke at the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Apprenticeships meeting in the House of Commons on Tuesday 14 June.

The meeting examined flexible working and apprenticeships, looking at the lessons learnt from remote apprenticeships. Jackie, alongside fellow industry speakers, discussed the challenges that apprenticeships faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how a hybrid model of working has enabled new opportunities for apprentices. She also called on Government to make changes to the Apprenticeship Levy.

What’s an APPG?

All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal, cross-party groups formed by MPs and Members of the House of Lords who share a common interest in a particular policy area, region or country.

Although they are not official parliamentary committees, these groups can be influential because of their non-partisan and cross-party approach to an issue. In addition, the fact that APPG usually have both MPs and Peers in them makes them uniquely representative of both chambers of Parliament.

Parliamentarians interested in the education sector can join a number of APPGs, including for Further Education and Lifelong Learning, Digital Skills, Adult Education, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), and Skills, Careers and Employment, as well as this one – on Apprenticeships.

CCCT is the largest further education apprenticeship provider in London, training more than a fifth of apprentices in the capital. The APPG on Apprenticeships meeting was an excellent opportunity for Jackie to raise the profile of CCCT with MPs and Peers. With over 25 years of experience within the apprenticeships sector, Jackie shared her knowledge with to the APPGs members, giving examples of the effect of the pandemic on apprenticeships and apprentices.

The meeting was chaired by APPG Officer, Lord Alastair Aberdare, who introduced the speakers. In addition to Jackie, the session also heard from Dr Jacqueline Hall, Head of Apprenticeships and Skills, BAE Systems Plc; Sue Parr, Director of Part-time Programme and Work-based Education, Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick; and from the HomeServe Foundation, Michelle Price, Director, and Liz Slee, Research and Public Affairs Specialist.

Jackie spoke of the challenges that CCCT faced at the start of the pandemic and how they worked to overcome them – these included “learning about data poverty for the first time because although we supplied devices [with help from the Department for Education’s donations], we also had to supply broadband or mobile data to a lot of households, particularly for young apprentices – so they could actually use their device.”

CCCT adapted to the needs of the sector during the pandemic, for example in Pharmacy, where the pressures of the pandemic changed the hours and shifts of pharmacists and increased their workload, making it harder for them to support our apprentices.

“What we found is that every industry is different in terms of the pandemic, the impact on apprentices and how we had to adapt” she said.

CCCT had around 100 Pharmacy apprentices working in the NHS during the pandemic, and the programme had to be adapted into bite-sized chunks of learning, with breaks in the programme when the pharmacists’ working hours became too busy. This resulted in some apprentices taking two years to complete a 1-year Level 2 apprenticeship, as COVID-related disruption meant they were only learning for 12 months of those two years.

Mental health and the lack of peer-to-peer support was a particular challenge for our apprentices during the pandemic. Jackie praised the staff who offered to take on pastoral support during evenings and over the weekends and said one of the most frequent compliments she gets from apprentices on completion of their course, is “my assessor was there when I needed them, but there isn’t someone in the workplace who could be there”.

Jackie concluded by calling on the Government to offer greater flexibility for providers by allowing the transfer of the Apprenticeship Levy to the organisation that provides the apprenticeship training (typically a further education college or a private provider), so they can continue to support the apprentice when they change jobs – currently as soon as an apprentice concludes their studies, the provider can no longer support them.

Lord Aberdare, Baroness Garden of Frognal and Baroness Verma asked questions about how apprenticeships can become more accessible to small and medium businesses, whether the Apprenticeship Levy works, and what the Government can do to improve the apprenticeship system. Jackie confidently answered the questions that she was asked and the APPG’s members were very interested in her suggestions.

Capital City College Group is the largest further education apprenticeship provider in London. As well as sharing our views with influential parliamentarians, we also train 22% of all of London’s apprentices. While most of our apprentices are trained by Capital City College Training, our hospitality and culinary apprentices are trained at Westminster Kingsway College’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria.

Through CCCT and Westminster Kingsway, we deliver over 1,600 apprenticeships each year, working with well over 500 organisations across a wide range of industries. Find out more about our apprenticeships and training courses and how to apply here.

Our political activity: a round-up

As one of the UK’s largest Further Education (FE) organisations and London’s largest FE college group, it’s important for Capital City College Group to work with politicians, and others in the education sector and in the wider economy. For example, MPs of all parties help shape public opinion and Ministers in Government make decisions that affect the funding of colleges and the lives of our staff and students – so meeting them and explaining to them the important work that we do, and asking them to consider changes to policy, is very valuable.

Over the last six months, we’ve built on the work we started last year – meeting MPs, hosting events and responding to consultations, as well as keeping up with the fast-changing post-16 education activity in Parliament. Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to.

Back in November 2021, during Global Entrepreneurship Week, we hosted an event to celebrate the expansion of our innovative Visionnaires entrepreneurship programme. Visionnaires has already helped over 500 people start new businesses through its free programmes and earlier in 2021, we’d formed a community interest company with United Colleges Group, South Thames Colleges Group and NCG, to bring Visionnaires to eight more colleges around the country.

At the event, our guests heard from Small Business Minister Paul Scully, who said: “Visionnaires has already enabled innovative entrepreneurs to prosper through networking and support. These are initiatives that the Government strongly supports because being able to draw on the experience of others and connect with likeminded people is so invaluable whether businesses are starting up or scaling up. Projects like Visionnaires play a crucial role in complementing the support that’s given by the Government.”

2022 started on a high for us, as in January we were told by the Greater London Authority that the Group had been successful in its bids to run four new Mayor of London Academy Hubs. The Academies will fast-track Londoners into work by giving them the skills they need to drive the capital’s economic recovery from the COVID pandemic. CCCG won £1.5 million to run hubs in Digital, Hospitality, Creative, and Green industries after successful bids to the Mayor’s Academies Programme.

In February, during National Apprenticeships Week we welcomed Skills Minister Alex Burghart MP to our construction and engineering conference at our Westminster Kingsway College’s Victoria Centre. Mr Burghart mingled with employers and apprentices, before making a speech to the group where he spoke of the importance of apprenticeships to the current skills market.

Also during National Apprenticeships Week, the MP for Enfield North, Feryal Clark, visited CONEL’s Enfield Centre, where she had a tour of our facilities and met staff and apprentices on our engineering and construction provision. Feryal thoroughly enjoyed the visit and said: “Apprenticeships can make a real difference to young people’s future, and I’m delighted we have such a great provider with brilliant apprentices here in Enfield North.”

We’re doing a lot of innovative and important work with construction and engineering employers in Enfield and Feryal was very interested in how we are helping her constituents into great careers. She also asked us what she can do to help the Further Education sector in Parliament, and so we hope to continue working with her on this in the future.

February also saw the publication of the Government’s long-awaited Levelling-up White Paper. At the time, our Chief Executive Roy O’Shaughnessy commented on the White Paper’s failure to recognise London’s levelling-up needs. He said: “London is home to around 2.5 million disadvantaged people and a greater proportion of its population are poor than that of any other UK region. For example, some 67 per cent of our students are in the bottom three bands of social deprivation, but not one of the 55 new Education Investment Areas will be in the capital.”

Roy also urged the Government to acknowledge the vital role that FE colleges can play in upskilling the UK’s workforce, and called for the sector to have a sustainable and longer-term funding settlement, to enable colleges to support the Government’s levelling-up plans.

In March, during Food Waste Action Week, Jo Churchill, the Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaption, visited WestKing’s Victoria Centre, where she found out about what the college’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts is doing to tackle food waste. At the event – organised by the charity WRAP – our culinary students, led by Culinary Arts Lecturer Vince Kelly, treated the Minister and guests to a menu of delicious food made from some of the most commonly wasted foods in the home. The Minister was delighted with the food and enjoyed talking with our students about their experiences at WestKing.

We have also been busy keeping up with the changes to post-16 qualifications in parliament.

In January we briefed our local MPs on the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, along with other MPs with an interest in education. In the briefing we highlighted important areas of interest for the CCCG and what MPs can do to help. Once parliamentary ping-pong concluded (where the Bill was passed between the House of Commons and the House of Lords until all amendments were agreed to) the Bill received Royal Assent and became the Skills and Post-16 Education Act on the 28April 2022. 

The last six months have also seen significant Government proposals to change the post-16 qualification landscape, so we have responded to the House of Commons Education Committee inquiries into the future of post-16 education and careers information, advice and guidance; as well as a Department for Education (DfE) consultation on review of level 2 and below qualifications.

Our colleges also run a number of access and degree-level courses, and so we responded to several consultations on proposed changes to Higher Education, including changes to student loans through the Lifelong Loan Entitlement and the Higher education policy statement and reform, and Office for Students (OfS) consultations on a new approach to regulating student outcomes and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

The work of analysing these consultations (which often run to over 100 pages each) and then writing our response, is complicated and time-consuming, but it’s important that our voice – and the voices of our students – are heard by those in power.

What next?

We are working with our staff and students on our response to the Government’s consultation on the SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) Green Paper, right support, right place, right time. Some 3,239 students (or 10.8% of our students) have some form of learning difficulty – including 595 who have an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP), meaning that they must have additional support to meet their educational, health and social needs and the proposals in the SEND Green Paper (to change both the SEND and alternative provision systems) will affect them directly.

Throughout the rest of the year, we will continue to engage with our local MPs and other important political figures and keep up to date with parliamentary activity.

If you would like to find out more about our political activity or would like to work with us, please contact Neil Cox, Head of Policy and Communications at neil.cox@capitalccg.ac.uk