Milton Keynes has surely grown faster and further than could have been expected and it is now a significant centre for business, locally, regionally and nationally. It is currently the fourth fastest growing area outside of London and the overall population is projected to grow by 19% over the next ten years.
Compared to national employment statistics, Milton Keynes continues to perform well with unemployment figures lower than the national average and a continuing decrease in youth unemployment rates.
At the heart of much of that positivity lies the quality of the city’s education provision, with higher than average performances by students from Key Stage 1 through to Key Stage 4.
However, one area of potential concern for our community lies in the provision of higher education and, as a result, the ability of Milton Keynes to retain highly skilled graduates after they have completed their studies.
With 55% of school leavers from Milton Keynes going on to study at undergraduate level – higher than the national average – there exists a potential for something of a skills drain as learners move outside of our area in order to further their studies and seek careers.
At this moment in time, students across local schools will be preparing and finalising their UCAS applications and while there is a plan for a fully-fledged university based in Milton Keynes as part of the MK2050 vision, we are still some way from achieving that dream.
That said, there are currently plenty of options for students to stay local if it suits their requirements.
It might surprise you to know that we have a higher education provision at Milton Keynes College and we ensure that we work alongside other providers to offer the right package for the right student.
That might mean moving away to start an undergraduate programme or working towards a part-time qualification through our Business and Leadership Centre.
Learners also have the option of studying as they work thanks to the flexibility of Higher Apprenticeships.
In addition, more study options are arising aimed at vocational or entrepreneurial qualifications, meaning that studying to degree level is no longer all about academic qualifications and gaining an ‘ology’.
This means that learners can be more focused and in line with the requirements of industry than ever before, often working towards a qualification in partnership with their employer to develop their skills and meet the training needs of the business.
I read a piece of research recently that suggested the most popular eventual career choice for fine art graduates was, believe it or not, dentistry.
To me, this shows that choosing what to study is about finding something you enjoy as much as what looks the most sensible option.
If Milton Keynes can continue to grow and build our community for the next 50 years, we can all look forward to a future where our businesses and economies will benefit from the country’s brightest and best employees.