Oldham College is vowing that their best is yet to come after being pipped to the post for the coveted 'FE College of the Year' award.
The Rochdale Road college missed out in the race for the flagship award to The Bedford College Group, at the prestigious TES FE Awards in a virtual ceremony held on Friday night (October 16).
These awards are seen as the Oscars of the sector and Oldham College's first-ever shortlisting for this accolade is seen as a major success in its own right.
The nominees for 'FE College of Year' were recognised for their "imagination, commitment and hard work having led to stellar provision in all areas" after judges evaluated evidence of excellence in providing a high-quality curriculum and student outcomes, plus strong recruitment and success rates in 2018-19.
Alun Francis, Principal and Chief Executive, said Oldham College was "honoured" to be sharing a platform with the best FE colleges nationwide.
He said: "It’s very special for a college in a place like Oldham to be shortlisted with the colleges we admire and seek to emulate – it puts us in great company, and firmly on the national map at a crucial time for the future of the Further Education sector.
"Oldham College has undergone an amazing transformation. Eight years ago it was literally falling down – yet we’ve rebuilt it in difficult financial circumstances whilst also modernising our curriculum and other key areas.
"This recognition is for our talented staff and incredible governors who show such commitment to making forward strides in what and how we deliver. I also want to thank our brilliant diverse learners, and the employers and partners supporting our vision to transform their lives, career prospects and the local economy."
Mr Francis believes the historic undervaluing of FE colleges is changing fast – and that Oldham College is now well-placed to benefit from major changes to Government policy on FE, skills and training.
He said: "Recognition is finally growing that towns like Oldham need strong further education colleges more than ever and that’s because of the unique range of people they work with (both adults and young people), the breadth of their curriculums from beginners to degrees, and their importance to the local economy and communities.
"That job isn’t finished yet, here or nationally, but we now have a platform to play a pivotal role in the economic recovery post-COVID-19.
"Oldham College will be at the forefront of the skills revolution Government recently announced – addressing training gaps for young people and adults, and giving everyone the chance to train or retrain with the Key Worker skills employers will need.
"This year we’re adding new facilities, including a state-of-the-art £9m Construction Centre where students can learn the building and trade skills of the future, and we also start delivering the new T Level qualifications in September 2021.
"That’s why – although this shortlisting was fantastic achievement for all concerned with Oldham College – I am also certain that our best is yet to come."
Oldham College has around 6,500 students and staff across two sites. It has won other national awards in the past year for its special needs support and its programme for teaching trainers, as well as positive inspection results for both its further and higher education provision.
Founded in 1893, it specialises in technical and professional education and training for hundreds of learners aged 16 and above. It offers an extensive range of courses, including apprenticeships, and has its own Higher Education faculty at University Campus Oldham.
Alun Francis (second left), Chief Executive and Principal, with students on Oldham College’s Fashion & textiles course who are (from left) Barney Garlick, Hira Chama and Matthew Brierley.