Leeds City College is looking to engage with more businesses to help plug skills gaps after its new Quarry Hill campus took on more students than it anticipated.
Quarry Hill was opened in August this year and was originally meant to host 3,000 students. However, the college ended up with around 3,800 students at the campus.
The additional numbers have meant that Leeds City College has had to rent more space near the new £60m campus, which houses its schools of social sciences and creative arts.
Bill Jones, principal of Leeds City College, said this was partly down to the growing 16 to 18-year-old demographic.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “There’s more 16-year-olds than there have been in the last 10 or 15 years this September.
“There’s also the new building, which has attracted some students that might have gone to other colleges or elsewhere.”
Around 50 per cent of the college’s students come from the bottom 10 per cent in terms of the most deprived wards on the Index of Multiple Deprivation. Suzanne Gallagher, director of curriculum and operations at Quarry Hill, said: “In Leeds there’s been some interesting research about the growing demographics.
“We’ve been interested from a young people’s perspective. That growth is often in the lowest socioeconomic areas.”
Ms Gallagher added that it was important to raise aspirations amongst this growing demographic.
“The best way of doing that is through education,” she said. “We keep saying that aspiration should be like a disease that is spread to other people.”
Despite ending up with more students than it anticipated, Leeds City College says it’s built the biggest building it could afford.
The college received over £33m in grants from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority for Quarry Hill, which replaced the Technology campus. “We built the biggest building we could afford,” Mr Jones said. “The fact is we need more capital funding. We needed it then, we need it more now.”
He added: “We need more capital funding for skills if we’re all going to enjoy greater social mobility and increased growth.”
There is still room to add more buildings at the Quarry Hill site, Mr Jones says.
The 16 to 18-year-old demographic is expected to grow further over the next decade, he added.
Mr Jones believes that there is a consensus among the major political parties about the importance of social mobility.
Following the vote to leave the European Union, there are skills shortages in certain areas such as health and social care, he said.
“If we’re going to fill those skills shortages, we need to develop the skills of the people that live here rather than relying on migrant labour,” Mr Jones added.
Rather than expecting “ready-made” talent to emerge from the college, the college wants businesses to work with it to co-design courses.
Mr Jones said: “We want to work much more closely with businesses in a partnership in ways we haven’t done before.”
Ms Gallagher said the college was working with industry by changing the way it delivers courses. When it comes to work experience, some employers prefer block placements of around three months, while others prefer students coming in one day a week. The college is flexible around how students do work experience, she added.
There are around 250 teaching staff based at the Quarry Hill campus. In total, Leeds City College has around 1,400 staff now, of which around 650 are teaching staff.
Moving campus a real team effort
The move to Quarry Hill from the Technology campus was overseen by Suzanne Gallagher.
The college called on both teaching and non-teaching staff to help with the move over the summer.
Ms Gallagher said: “The estates team couldn’t obviously do everything themselves so we called upon the curriculum team. We said if you’re happy enough and healthy enough to help out, then be here at this time. We literally would have a hundred teachers standing there saying what do you want us to do.
“It was a real team effort. We’re trying to create a culture with the staff and the students here of being a part of a family.”