The Bedford College Group has welcomed £90,000 from the Connolly Foundation towards engineering skills being taught at a dedicated campus in Leighton Buzzard.
The Leighton Buzzard campus is part of Central Bedfordshire College, which merged with The Bedford College Group earlier in 2023.
Prior to the merger, the Leighton Buzzard campus was designated to become an engineering hub within the area, delivering a variety of qualifications within the engineering sector. Now the Group and the Connolly Foundation are progressing the plan.
The Leighton Buzzard campus is ideally situated for employer and apprentices to access, as the campus is located within close proximity to a number of businesses within the engineering and logistics sectors.
Connolly Foundation Chief Operating Officer David Oldham said:
“The Leighton Buzzard campus meets the Foundation’s objective of giving young people the opportunity to build careers. The equipment that we are funding will provide skills that are needed in the county. We are delighted to be part of this facility.”
The campus has been supported by the local MP Andrew Selous who also recognised the need to develop a high-class provision such as the Leighton Buzzard campus within the area.
MP Andrew Selous said: “The Central Bedfordshire College campus on Chartmoor Road in Leighton Buzzard is a really important facility … I warmly welcome the new apprenticeships and training opportunities and new engineering equipment we now have.
Many employers are offering well-paid jobs to people with the qualifications which are being provided here, and I’m very pleased that we now have a high-quality offer in the town so people don’t need to travel elsewhere and I’m grateful to The Bedford College Group for making this possible.”
Debbie Houghton, Executive Director of Apprenticeships at The Bedford College Group pointed out that the event was the first appearance of new Group CEO Yiannis Koursis OBE. He and retiring CEO Ian Pryce CBE both spoke.
Looking forward, Yiannis said: “This is a fast growing area and we look forward to forging more partnerships with employers and other organisations. We thank the Connolly Foundation for their generous support to the Group.”
Ian said: “The Group is grateful to MP Andrew Selous for challenging us to ensure that Leighton Buzzard has a training centre which meets the skills needs of local companies.”
Meeting the skills demands for the region
Principal of Central Bedfordshire College Sarah Mortimer thanked regional economic organisation SEMLEP for their earlier contribution. She also pointed out that the premises in Leighton Buzzard were available for hire for business meetings by companies in the area, as facility for all.
As a member of SEMLEP Judith Barker was also involved in the original vision for the unit, now as Assistant Director of Place at Central Bedfordshire Council, she so spoke about how “great it is” to see the aspirations of 2017 now meeting the skills demands for the region.
The Leighton Buzzard campus is now dedicated to delivering engineering Apprenticeship Standards from January 2024.
Although there was equipment within the building, additional investment was required to kit out the workshop in order to ensure the successful delivery of apprenticeships and T Levels.
The new equipment is required to meet the Apprenticeship Standards and awarding body requirements.
- Engineering Operative Level 2
- Engineering Fitter Level 3
- Engineering Technician Level 3 (Technical Support pathway)
- Engineering Technician Level 3 (Mechatronics pathway – Mechanical)
- Engineering Machinist Level 3
Employers within the area have highlighted a skills shortage within the engineering sectors, a shortage which is felt not just regionally but nationally too. Employers are struggling to recruit for qualified engineers, therefore relying on entry routes such as apprenticeships to fulfil their staffing needs.
Leighton Buzzard campus will be vital for the development of local skills within Engineering but also provide an opportunity for existing staff to upskill. Employers will be invited to contribute to the curriculum to ensure qualifications delivered will be fit for purpose and in line with employer needs.
The long-term objective for the campus is to run a number of commercial courses, apprenticeships and T Levels in order to address the skills shortage within the local community, but also surrounding areas.
The offer will not be restricted to engineering qualifications, but will also in the future expand in to a wider subject offer aimed at supporting young people and adults. (whether commercial, Full Time Further Education study, apprenticeships or T Levels).