But that provincial lifestyle changed dramatically after industrialisation, with jobs drawing people from the shires into larger urban enclaves. Instead of the local farmer, baker, or indeed candlestick maker, being the primary source for produce, society began manufacturing in larger batches. It moved away from artisanal tradecraft, in favour of scaling industries to create efficiencies. This, it must be said, served the country relatively well for a period, with huge advances in technology, as well as rising standards of living for many.
But it was far from a perfect way of doing things, and over the past decade or so, society has begun to beat a retreat from this style of living. Campaigns for locally sourced food are on the rise, with growth in the number of farmers markets, as well as organisations like Produced in Kent promoting smaller producers. And people’s lifestyle habits are also beginning to change to reflect this, with fewer choosing to relocate large distances to find work, preferring instead to get a job in their local communities.
But what exactly does all this have to do with the world of further education? It’s simple really; FE has, to one degree or another, been replicating this newfound desire for local. Our College works in partnership with all of our local councils, and many of the key employers in our campus areas.
We’ve worked hard to build strong partnerships with large economic bodies such as the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and other important groups in order to identify and isolate key skills gaps in the local, and regional economies that we work in. But above all, we’ve worked to ensure we are nimble in our curriculum offering.
We’re constantly striving to provide the right skills for our local communities; the skills which are needed by business in those areas. That work which we do, will enable our students – once they finish their learning – to move more fluidly from the College, and into the wider world of work. It boosts their employability if we’re able to give them the skills needed in their communities. And that in turn boosts our communities, while ensuring the best possible outcomes for all of the College’s students.
We’ve worked hard to tailor our offering in each of our campuses, building close partnerships with employers, councils and a range of other groups. In Dover, we’ve seen work taking place on our engineering and hospitality offerings, as those are key sectors, while in Folkestone we’ve invested significant sums developing our construction trades and creative areas.
Why? Because those trades tally directly with what’s required in the district. Marrying our curriculum with local economic demand drives our students onto better progression, benefits their economy, and also delivers for the community.
It’s exactly that kind of holistic working which will ensure that further education – the engine of our economy – continues to deliver for everyone, far into the future.