The college has also put in place a new specialist team lead by Debra Woodruff the Deputy Principal. The team has extensive, real world experience of working with employers to understand their workforce development needs and developing bespoke solutions to support them to upskill their workforce. This could involve the recruitment and training of apprentices, new staff and existing staff.
Debra joined the college in September 2014 and has spent much of her career working with employers, government and local stakeholders on skills and workforce development design and delivery. For 10 years, she was the Deputy Chief Executive of the Manchester Solutions Group and before that worked for the Greater Manchester Learning and Skills Council and Manchester Training and Enterprise Council. Debra’s passion for skills education and training started way back in 1979 when she worked for the Manpower Services Commission and was able to see first-hand the transformation that skills training could make to both individuals lives and to business growth and profitability through the Training Opportunities Programme (TOPs). Debra was involved in the design of Modern Apprenticeships in the early 1990’s and is keen to see the new Apprenticeship standards currently under development meet the needs of employers for the future.
Debra said “The college has made a big investment in creating our new sector specialist teams and we are working hard to ensure that we are able to provide a high quality responsive experience for our employer partners and our Apprentices. We are keen to develop new employer relationships and to explore how we can help businesses recruit and retain skilled people to help their businesses grow. We’d be delighted to hear from employers and to explore how we can support them with their workforce development needs and how we can work together to develop new higher level apprenticeship opportunities.”
Director of Apprenticeships and Business Development
Heather Green is Oldham College's Director of Apprenticeships and Business Development. She joined the college in December 2014 and has spent much of her career working with employers on workforce development and apprenticeship. She has been involved with many different apprenticeship systems overseen by different governments including Modern Apprenticeships, launched back the early 1990s.
For 19 years, she worked for a large Greater Manchester provider which included working closely with Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce to develop bespoke training solutions in key growth sectors.
Away from college, she helps run a charity in Hulme, Manchester, which helps young people, families and others in need. She has two daughters, both former apprentices, and two granddaughters.
Outlining her new role at Oldham College she said: “We are trying to expand apprenticeships within the college but also expand the way we work with businesses. The college has been restructured into seven faculties reflecting industrial sectors, each with its specialist tutors, assessors, business advisors. The current system of vocational training is placing much greater emphasis on employability skills which have, arguably, been under estimated by previous governments in favour of theory and knowledge-based qualifications. Clearly both are important for young people to succeed in their chosen occupation.
“For example, nursing became a degree profession with university-style studies but can nurses work well with patients or doctors? Engineers may have completed their studies and gained expert, theoretical knowledge but their practical engineering skills or people-management skills may be weak.
The new emphasis is on all-round workplace skills” Heather said.
New national apprenticeship reforms, such as Trailblazer Groups which are developing new standards for apprenticeship are putting employers in the driving seat. In the past, training was often overseen by trade organisations. However new arrangements will make employers much more engaged in training and insistent on quality. This will give them better access to influence apprenticeship standards and give them the occupational skills they really need - key workplace skills and transferable skills.
We want business to tell us what they need and want and of course tell us what they don't want. If we've not got it right, tell us. We will try to design and deliver a bespoke training model that meets their needs. I meet employers at numerous events and I also like to visit their workplaces, to get a real understanding of their business and the issues they face. In addition to training, the college helps employers recruit new staff. This is done through the college's network of Business Advisors and the college's Job Shop.”
Heather said: “We can match good, engaged young people and employers. We have 1,000 learners leaving college each year who have good track-records and turn-up every day. Why wouldn't employers want to come here to meet them and recruit?”
The college also delivers traineeships for people not yet ready for an apprenticeship. Trainees have opportunities to go on short training courses to gain employability skills. There are also work experience placements and trial periods of work, which all helps trainees to get ready for the world of work rather than starting a job or apprenticeship unprepared.
There are also skills courses for existing employees, from care work courses to foundation degree and degree courses at University Campus Oldham. Heather said ”Staff don't stop learning once they start work. We have a range of part-time courses to support businesses. All this means Oldham is a very exciting place to be at the moment.
Across the borough there is growing confidence, some big businesses having announced they are coming here and others are investing. While the college's focus is on working with local and regional businesses some new, specialist courses have been developed with national companies. One example is a street and highway lighting course with E-On. The college is also in talks with some other national construction firms about niche training courses.”
Heather concluded: “There are many ways to invest in your staff. Oldham College has lots of training expertise to offer employers and we are determined to boost the area's skills base. Employers can contact myself, Lisa Wright, our Head of Work based Learning, our Business advisors, Job Shop Team, Assessors or Tutors – we’re all here to help. Our number is 0161 785 4000.”
Head of Work Based Learning
Lisa is Oldham born and bred and lives in Springhead Lees. She started her own journey within the hair and beauty sector at Oldham College in 1994 studying a full time hair and beauty course,
After qualifying at Level 2 and choosing Hairdressing as her main discipline, she then completed a Level 3 apprenticeship also in hairdressing with the college whilst building up her clientele at a salon in Failsworth.
Lisa said “It was during this time that I became interested in the idea of teaching the next generation of hair and beauty professionals as I really enjoyed mentoring new apprentices in my salon.”
As a result, she joined the college in 2005 as a course tutor in Hairdressing and progressed to managing the apprenticeship provision within hair and beauty. This also involved setting up Salon 7, Oldham College’s town centre salon where apprentices and full-time learners gain the real industry experience.
Lisa’s current role of Head of Work Based Learning involves ensuring the college delivers high quality apprenticeship provision within a dynamic regional economy and ensuring Oldham College’s offer is responsive and flexible in meeting employer demands.
“Apprenticeships are not courses, they are jobs with training and a route into a professional career. Apprentices also, bring strong business benefits for the host employer. Our focus over the next year will be to develop our advanced and higher apprenticeship offer to ensure that opportunities are available for apprentices to progress to high skilled roles and play an essential part in business growth in Oldham and Greater Manchester” said Lisa.