Skills For Life – in Action

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street recently visited Dudley College of Technology’s Skills Shop, located at the heart of Merry Hill Centre to talk with learners who are benefiting from training funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

Learners at the centre are studying a range of Sector-based Work Academy Programmes (SWAPs), which are designed alongside an employer who is looking to recruit employees from a pool of newly unemployed candidates. Sector-based Work Academy Programmes are designed to help improve the job prospects of learners and help employers fill vacancies where there is local demand. SWAPs are short, sharp programmes lasting up to 6 weeks and have three main components: pre-employment training, work experience placement and a guaranteed job interview.

Andy Street visits the Skills Shop
DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) Job Coach, Kirsty Brookes, Skills Shop learner: Beth Illidge, Mayor of the West Midlands; Andy Street and Skills Shop Manager: Ruth Trethewey.

SWAPs are currently receiving an injection of government funding, which is administered by the WMCA regionally, as the government seeks to help jobseekers who are claiming either Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), to build confidence, improve job prospects and enhance CVs whilst also helping businesses build a skilled workforce.

Commenting on the success of the SWAPs which are run from the centre, Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Dudley College, Neil Thomas said: “Our sector-based work academy programme (SWAPs) is an opportunity to learn new skills and get an experience of working in a particular industry.

Participants continue to receive benefits whilst taking part in a SWAP and receive support with covering the cost of public transport and childcare whilst studying. The best thing about them is that each SWAP is linked to one or more genuine job vacancy. Last year nearly half of the people completed SWAP programmes were then taken directly into employment, which is something we are really proud of”.

During his visit Andy met with Pauline Jones, Business Manager at the Department of Work and Pensions who works closely with the Skills Shop to refer people to the centre who will benefit from a skills boost. Learners such as   Beth Illidge, who has been recently unemployed and was attending the Skills Shop to find out about the pre-employment training she could benefit from and the hospitality SWAP which is supported by three local employers, McDonalds, KFC, and The Hop House who are working with the centre to recruit new employees.

Anyone wishing to join a SWAP or employers looking to fill vacancies should contact Black Country Skills Shop team on 01384 363790.

Dudley College Photography students selected to feature in nationwide exhibitions for Historic England!

Our very own Photography students Beth Hewitt, Marni Parkes, Sarah Ralph, Olivia Rhoden and Jordy Webb were successfully selected by Historic England in the project ‘Picturing High Streets’. This exhibition aims to depict high streets, individuals and communities around the country. The soon to arrive exhibition is part of a three-year project presented by Historic England and Photoworks in partnership with various national photography organisations. 

All of those who entered photographs were given fortnightly challenges with themes such as “high street hang outs” and “bright lights to dark nights”. Photographs were submitted by posting under the hashtag #PicturingHighStreets on Instagram, with all entries creating an unofficial archive which documents high streets. 60 entries in total were selected out of over 1,000 entries nationwide to be displayed in a variety of towns and cities across the country, so we are ever so proud of our students’ achievements in being selected! 

Photography student Marni Parkes with her ‘Picturing High Streets’ entry.
Photography student Marni Parkes with her ‘Picturing High Streets’ entry. 

The chosen photos will be displayed in different forms through the country, such as part of the FORMAT23 photography festival in Derby, exhibitions in Bristol and Bradford and on window vinyls in Middlesbrough, Hastings, Stoke-on-Trent and Prescot. They will also be visible as projections on walls in Soho Photography Quarter, outside The Photographers’ Gallery, and on Clear Channel advertising space across England.   

The future of our high streets may look uncertain at times, so this exhibition will allow the public to reflect on the lasting impact our high streets still have on us and communities across the UK. They are often places to celebrate history, local culture and varied experiences that make up the people and places that we might take for granted in our daily lives. 

This programme is a part of Historic England’s £95 million government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme, which is providing people with a renewed outlook on over 60 high streets across England. Achieving status as the widest-reaching community-led arts and heritage programme in the public realm that has ever been organised, this has been led by Historic England in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

Why not follow @PicturingHighStreets on Instagram and post your own pictures using #PicturingHighStreets? The national outdoor exhibition will open in March 2023 for you to enjoy and see students work. A big congratulations goes out again to all students who took part, particularly those who were successfully chosen to participate in this project, showing off their skills and passion through fantastic pictures! We are so very proud of your achievements so far. 

Dudley College of Technology appoints new Chair of Corporation

Dudley College of Technology has appointed Professor Paul Noon OBE, as its new Chair of Corporation. 

He will succeed David Whatton on the 1st April 2023, the current Chair, who steps down following eight dedicated years of service to the Corporation, four of which in the role of chair.

Paul’s appointment follows a robust recruitment process led by David, to find his successor.

Paul is well suited to the position with an extensive career in the public sector with previous roles in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and as Regional Director of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) West Midlands. He currently works as Pro-Vice Chancellor (Enterprise and Innovation) for Coventry University where he is involved in projects as diverse as developing the health sector in Yorkshire and aviation and manufacturing sectors in Indonesia and Brazil.

With his vast experience in developing the economic prosperity of the UK, supporting business of all sizes to develop their export markets -Paul champions a de-centralised approach to economic development working collaboratively with the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Midlands Engine to drive growth and prosperity in the West Midlands region.

Commenting on Paul’s appointment David Whatton said:

“I am delighted we have been able to secure such an outstanding appointment for the post of Chair of the college’s Corporation. I am confident Paul will help the college to continue to give a great education and experience to all of our students. His background and knowledge will also help the college to meet the needs of our communities and the businesses we serve.  His professional experience and wider understanding will help the Governors and the staff of the college to navigate the changes in further education and ensure that Dudley College continues to be the best college of technology in the country.”

Welcoming Paul and thanking David prior to the hand over Neil Thomas, Chief Executive and Principal of Dudley College of Technology said:

“David has been a huge personal support to me in my leadership of the college, helping to make it the vibrant place it is today. I very much look forward to working with Paul to continue the college’s journey of success by developing innovative approaches to meeting the skills needs of our economy.”

Paul will initially take up the role for a period of four years.