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Tell us what you need and we will help plug those gaps: College COO looks to grow links with employers

CLOSE links between employers and Milton Keynes College will be central to the success of a campaign focusing on training more of the workforce in Milton Keynes that the city’s businesses and industry need.

It is time to develop talent from within the city’s borders, says Jason Mansell, Milton Keynes College Group’s newly promoted chief operating officer. Until now, employers have relied on bringing skilled people in from outside.

“Milton Keynes is the fastest growing city in the country yet those working in the city earn more than those living in the city,” Mr Mansell pictured said. “My ambition is to see that gap close as we provide the skills and knowledge most in need locally by giving them to our own young people.”

He took up the role as COO after a 24-year career at the college, rising from a prison lecturer to be the group’s second in command. The college offers a range of courses, from apprenticeships and T-Levels to Microsoft-accredited courses at the South Central Institute of Technology housed at the college’s campus in Bletchley.

Mr Mansell said: “I would appeal to businesses large and small in Milton Keynes to come to talk to us.  We know that many of you are struggling to fill your job vacancies, and we can tell that by the significant numbers of people moving here from elsewhere to take up employment.  Tell us what you need and we will help you plug those gaps.

“The days of one-size-fits-all college courses are long gone. We can tailor what a student learns to meet your specific needs.”

Parents and students are realising the middle way exists, as well as the traditional employment or university choice facing school leavers. “For years, families have thought there were only two routes school leavers could take. They are starting to appreciate that a middle way offers the best of both worlds, earning and learning at the same time as people taking apprenticeships do,” Mr Mansell said.

He recalled one former student who was at loggerheads with his mother over his desire to do an apprenticeship. She wanted him to go to university. “Now he is 21 and working for a globally known engineering company with a terrific career path ahead of him and earning £60,000 per year.  If he had gone to university, he would be just starting out in work now with several years less experience, being paid less than half as much.”

A former prison student attending a college event told Mr Mansell how, as he served his sentence, he had enrolled on a construction course at a prison academy run by the college and ended up with a job in construction after his release.

“He explained how he was just about to take his family on holiday for the first time using money that he earned legally.  He said it made him feel like a ‘proper family man’,” Mr Mansell said.  “That is the real power of education. He has gone from breaking the law and costing the taxpayer money to being a taxpayer himself, carving out a good life as a contributing member of society.”

“If that did not inspire you to get up for work each morning, I do not know what would. It certainly inspires me and I am committed to driving the College Group to address the skills gaps in our city and supporting our students to develop successful and exciting careers.”

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