Opinion: College is looking to the future in a brave new world

East Coast College chief executive Stuart Rimmer Picture: East Coast College

East Coast College chief executive Stuart Rimmer Picture: East Coast College - Credit: Archant

East Coast College will return to some commercial training from June 8, with some teaching of year 12 students and apprentices recommencing from June 15, ensuring students gain licenses to practice to allow work progression.

The college will continue to work with all students over the summer to guarantee progression and focus on vulnerable learner groups supporting mental health and improving social conditions.

As we look to the future, one thing is certain, the class of 2021 will look very different to previous intakes. As for the local businesses they serve, ECC does not have a masterplan handed down from the government to implement.

Rather, the government advises and the college uses its own leadership to decide the best, safest and most-effective way to welcome students back to class.

Our mission is to create a place of both learning and safety.

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This is in no small part without consultation with teachers, parents and students. Everyone must feel safe, and that they are in an environment that supports their health as well as their educational needs. As we reopen college doors in June to some students, we want to ensure we do not squander the goodwill of academic staff and students who continue collaborating delivering excellence online.

The legacy of COVID-19 is that disruption is the new normal. Crucially, it’s how we respond as individuals and an institution to these events that dictate how successful we can be.

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This generation of college leavers will now be used to thinking on their feet, taking ownership of their educational development that no leavers have had to before, with the exception perhaps of students emerging from the last world war.

This can only be a bonus for businesses. Employers don’t just value what colleges put in young adults’ heads, but how they communicate it and what other skills they possess.

Post COVID-19, tomorrow’s workforce will have worked hard to have achieved their grades using a range of digital, resilience and independence skills to facilitate learning and progress, which will stand them in excellent stead as remote working is more likely to come into effect in the future workforce.

Crucially, we must now ensure, like never before, that all students have access to the same opportunities rather than favouring students from affluent households with super-engaged parents.

This will involve business working ever closer with education to create new industrial placement opportunities, apprenticeships places that could easily be in short supply and supporting retraining for adults displaced by the pandemic or needing rapid upskilling in new technologies or new ways of working.

Staying engaged and finding ways to work online has created a new type of student that will be really valuable to tomorrow’s workforce and our working practices after COVID-19 will need to retain that spirit when we return.

The college’s focus going forward, as we welcome a new cohort in September, will be developing these new ‘post-COVID’ skills, knowledge and behaviours.

The collective challenge now is how will business and education work together to create new opportunities in a challenging and uncertain economic marketplace to utilise this emerging new workforce.

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