theView

Preston College
Lis Smith - Principal and Chief Executive

Lis Smith
Principal and Chief Executive

With an extensive academic background and a clear commitment to education and learning, Lis has been Principal and Chief Executive of Preston College since February 2011 and has overseen it's transformation into an enterprising college during that time.

Lis Smith: Employability and enterprise are key

Guest Post - Monday, 9th September, 2013

Welcome to the View.  It’s certainly a first for me, having never blogged before!

Keeping up with and embracing new technology, especially social media, becomes ever more critical, not only to make sure we engage effectively with our learners but also our businesses and wider community.  Becoming aware of your own digital footprint is something which we are working with our learners on, so they understand the importance of what they put on, for example, Facebook, and the impact on their own safety and security but also the potential prospects for employment and higher education.  We’ve teamed up with social media companies based at Cotton Court in Preston, to help develop specific training and insights into the use of social media.  This is proving very successful with our pre-apprenticeship programme.

All of this forms part of the wider drive to support our learners in becoming more employable, more enterprising and more adaptable to deal with the changing environment.  Our relationships with the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership and Lancashire’s employers become even more critical as we try to make sure that we align our provision with what employers need and want and how that fits in with the wider Lancashire economy.

However, for as long as I’ve been involved in working in education and training with employers, there always seems to be a perceived and real mismatch between what employers need and want in terms of skills and employment, what providers, including FE Colleges, are able to provide and what employers then purchase and engage in.  Judging by the recent comments from both the CBI and Chambers of Commerce, this would seem to remain a holy grail.  We sometimes run the risk of treating all employers as a homogenous body, but very clearly, employers have different requirements depending on size, sector and growth potential.  Employers need people with skills but also the right behaviours and attitudes. These are key underlying principles for us and the basis of developing an enterprising culture within the College.  Yes, making sure we focus on having high quality provision and gaining a qualification to the best of a learner’s ability, but also embedding a range of further skills and tools which help make learners more employable and enterprising.  We need to listen to employers and work with them to help develop their workforce and grow their companies – and that’s exactly what we are doing.  Being flexible in how and what we deliver in partnership with employers is essential and already we are seeing real value from our partnerships with Baxi, Community Gateway and the Chamber of Commerce, to name but a few.

This coming year sees a real focus on encouraging enterprise and employability for our learners, connecting them with the world of work, helping them to be amongst the best-equipped people to make their own personal success in the world of work – an ambition for our learners to be THE most employable.


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