Principal talks of 'immense pride' as college battled through adversity

Laurence Frewin stood outside South Devon College

South Devon College principal and chief executive officer Laurence Frewin - Credit: Pic: Submitted

2020; a year like no other for so many reasons. But reflecting back I feel an immense sense of pride in everything South Devon College has achieved in support of our students, staff and the wider community.

As the college moved to online learning at the start of lockdown in March, the Hi Tech and Digital team pulled together to produce over 1,000 visors for local NHS and care home staff to help with addressing critical shortages of PPE. The college also donated supplies of PPE to the NHS and others in need, as well as donating food and supplies to local families via Re4orm. 

Learning continued, online, and we supported students by distributing devices to those without them, to allow education to continue through the toughest of times. 

Good news has continued through the adversity. 

In June, the college became the first and only college to receive Platinum reaccreditation from Investors in People. Additionally, IiP awarded the College the Health & Wellbeing Award recognising our success in achieving its ambitions of being an energetic, inclusive, supportive place of work with inspiring, committed and innovative staff. 

The College’s new, state of the art Hi Tech & Digital Centre won the prestigious Michelmores Property Awards for ‘Best Education Project of the Year. Later in November, the College signed an agreement with the UK’s world leading National Composites Centre. This relationship will give our students and local businesses an unrivalled experience through our new composites programmes, including access to world class research and development opportunities and business led projects. Then the College’s University Centre celebrated the launch of its new cutting-edge simulation suite facilities. 

Looking ahead there is light at the end of the tunnel with the roll out of the vaccine. But there is a long road ahead of us in the recovery of our local and national economy. 

Most Read

In a speech delivered in Exeter in November, Boris Johnson heralded an end to the ‘gulf’ between further and higher education, citing the integral role of FE colleges in the recovery of the economy, through providing a skilled workforce. 

Subsequently, the Government launched its Lifetime Skills Guarantee meaning that from next April, adults without a full Level 3 (A Level equivalent qualification) can take a free fully funded college course to help get one. This provides a fantastic opportunity to get back into education. 

The College’s significant investment in digital, health and care facilities is testament to our commitment to developing skills in the industries that are most in need of workers. With 51,000 jobs lost across the South West in 2020, it is vital that we continue to invest in supporting our community to take advantage of opportunities in sectors that will continue to see significant growth. 

Investment in these sectors, as well as others such as marine and construction, is especially pertinent in the wake of Brexit. By delivering skills and training in these crucial industries we are addressing 

skills gaps that now exist in sectors that have traditionally relied on a workforce from outside of the UK. 

Next year, the College will deliver T Levels alongside A Levels, within its Sixth Form Centre. These new qualifications, equivalent to three A levels, provide the opportunity to study, alongside gaining technical training and experience in the workplace – such a valuable experience in preparing for employment in these tough times and an alternative route to degree qualifications and well-paid jobs. 

There will be uncertainty, as we begin to understand the opportunities and challenges that will arise post Brexit and post Covid-19, but one thing is certain, building skills will be more important than ever. 

The team are committed to supporting our local community through providing access to education for all; keeping us in employment, progressing our careers, achieving our ambitions and supporting the recovery of our local economy. 

It’s been the most challenging year in living memory. I’d like to wish you all a safe and happy Christmas and I hope you will take the time to relax and recharge ahead of what will undoubtedly be an exciting 2021.