Lowestoft College aims to boost links with employers

Lowestoft College principal Jo Pretty.

Lowestoft College principal Jo Pretty. - Credit: Archant

A college is to build on its links with business in a bid to prepare its students for the world of work, its new principal has said.

Jo Pretty - who was confirmed as Lowestoft College's permanent principal last month after working in the role on an interim basis since August last year - said it was important to get feedback from employers about what they are looking for from potential new recruits, so tutors can prepare its students accordingly.

She added that it was even more important in light of feedback that students across the country often lack key skills, such as flexibility in the workplace and the right attitude.

'They want people who are keen and are going to learn,' she said.

In particular she talked about the 't-shaped student' - the idea that it is just as important for students to have the right attitude and ability to be flexible as it is for them to have the technical skills required for their roles.

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'Employers sometimes say - and I know this myself - that these skills are lacking when students come through secondary school education,' she said.

And she added that although 'these skills are something that come with maturity', it is important that 'students have some hours that are non-certificated to enhance their skills'.

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Having worked in a variety of jobs before completing her teacher training - including with a recruitment agency, the NHS and as managing director of a fabrication and design company - Mrs Pretty knows that engagement with employers is key.

She said employer engagement is already happening on a number of levels in the St Peter's Street college, with many tutors having come to teaching from an industry background and having contacts from their old careers.

But she also said she and the college's executive team was continuously going out to meet businesses to develop links. The college currently works with approximately 800 employers.

Mrs Pretty said she had met with Lowestoft-based holiday firm Hoseasons, for example, about ways the company could work with the college.

And last month James King - a former Lowestoft College student who went on to build a global oil consultancy and become one of the world's leading oil experts - gave his view on what employers are looking for in a talk at his old college.

'The best option is to go to the top and learn degree-level stuff,' he told today's students.

'They've got to be educated to design rather than build. I'm telling them that their next step should be university.'

Mrs Pretty said the college was always prepared to adapt its curriculum to provide students with the skills employers want.

For example, the college became part of University Campus Suffolk in 2007 and already offers many degree-level qualifications.

She also said improving English and maths skills is one of the college's priorities and pledged to 'improve the culture around the value of these subjects to support the young people and adults in Lowestoft and surrounding areas into careers'.

What skills do you think young people in Lowestoft need for the future? Write, giving your full contact details, to: Journal Postnox, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or email andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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