Last week I went to a retirement dinner for Carl Groves, the principal of Fareham College. Carl has been principal for nine years and in that time has turned the college around.
When he took over the college it faced an uncertain future with neither its finances nor academic standards in good shape. Last year, the college achieved a record exam success rate of 86 per cent and it has had a financial surplus in each of the last five years. The improvement in its performance means it recruits over an extra 1,000 full-time students compared to nine years ago. Carl has done a fantastic job and will be greatly missed.
The real beneficiaries of Carl’s work are local students and employers.
Twice in the last nine years Fareham College has won Beacon awards for its courses – the first for hair and beauty and the second, last year, for health and social care. These awards recognise the quality of the teaching and level of attainment in those subject areas. At a time when good qualifications are vital in securing jobs, students from Fareham College stand out.
When reflecting on the achievements of Fareham College under Carl’s leadership, I was struck by the important role that further education colleges can play in securing our future prosperity. At a time when we need to boost the skills of our workforce to enable them to compete with the rest of the world, FE colleges play a vital role. They will equip tomorrow’s workforce with technical knowledge and skills alongside the work experience they will get through our expanded apprenticeship programme. In fact, I am going back to Fareham College next week to meet local employers whose apprentices study at the college.
In addition, through improvements at colleges such as Fareham, young people can now see high quality vocational training as a real alternative to university. I think that this really adds to the opportunities for our young people and will better equip them for work. So I am very grateful to Carl for his work in helping meet the aspirations of Fareham and its young people.