Even though under funding continues to be an issue for the sector, FE colleges are beginning to bounce back and Bournemouth and Poole College is no exception.

Principal Diane Grannell is just about to hand over the reins to Phil Sayles who brings many years’ experience running a college in Yorkshire. And as she prepares to leave, she does so knowing the college is on the cusp of some really exciting developments.

“I am retiring at Christmas, after my seventh year in post and it feels like a good time for the College.

“The way we look at learning is changing and the recent White Paper shows the government is once more looking at the significant role FE has to play,” she said.

The Skills for Jobs White Paper sets out reforms to post-16 technical education and training to support people to develop the skills needed to get good jobs and improve national productivity.

“Lifetime learning is being discussed again. We are giving students the opportunity to study in bite size chunks.

“If you have studied a three-year degree, you can come back to college and change direction – this has to be the future for how people will learn,” said Diane.

The pandemic changed the way people learn and Bournemouth and Poole College’s digital transformation strategy moved significantly further down the road in a shorter timeframe than expected.

“We have a new team to help staff and students to ensure their skills are kept up to date. Not everything can be delivered online of course but where there is a digital element we listen to our students as well because they know so much too.

“Our new strategic plan ‘Transforming Futures’ defines the direction we are taking when it comes to technical and vocational qualification training. We will be offering new Technician level or T levels from 2023.

“Our whole curriculum will offer digital skills and green tech relevant to the student’s chosen field, be that working with engineering, hairdressing or catering,” she said.

A new sustainability strategy is being led by staff and students with a vision to move towards being net zero producers.

While the content of learning is changing at a pace, the classrooms are also being given a revamp. The College is one of 16 colleges nationally to have attracted significant investment in the college estate.

A longer term project to revitalise the Bournemouth campus with its listed buildings is being master planned. Outline proposals should be finalised before Christmas and a detailed planning application should be lodged next Spring.

Working with employers to identify their needs and ensure students are arriving in the workplace with relevant qualifications remains important for the College.

And becoming a Business South Champion is part of the College’s focus to develop further links and relationships with business.

“We have a strong relationship with businesses and this is something we are looking to further develop. We work with the likes of McCarthy and Stone, RNLI and Sunseeker. We enjoy going into local companies to see their ways of working and we bring that back into the College as part of the learning process.

“When we are working with businesses, it’s not just about what training we can offer them – it’s also about what we can learn from businesses so we can pass on information that is relevant and up to date for our students,” she added.