Forth Valley College prepares to reopen

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As Forth Valley College prepares to reopen its Falkirk campus after it had to close during the pandemic lockdown, principal Ken Thomson reflects on the last five months.

Dr Thomson also looks at the innovations put in place, as well as how staff and students coped with the unexpected closure.

Here are his own words on this exceptional period in the college – and the country’s history:

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Even in the darkest times we looked forward positively to our re-opening – this is now almost upon us and we are commencing online enrolments very soon.Indeed, throughout the shutdown we have continued to recruit for our session 20/21 courses and accepted hundreds of applications with interviews taking place over the phone or via video call.We have always recognised how important the college sector will be to Scotland, providing skilled workers and graduates in order to support the recovery and we will continue to encourage people to contact us to find out more about the opportunities that will be available here at the college.Helping young people embark on the first stage of their career journey is at the core of what we do and our Modern Apprenticeship programme will be even more important in the months and years to come.That is why our business development department has been pulling out the stops over the last few weeks working with our employer partners to provide innovative solutions and pathways for potential new MAs to apply and take aptitude tests online and to help employers to review the progress of current MAs through remote learning facilities.We have also enhanced our successful pre-apprenticeship course programme and added a range of construction pre-apprenticeship courses to our popular engineering options.Commercially, bookings for our professional training courses in CompEx, First Aid and 18th Edition electrical regulations continue to be a high priority for us and we want to assure everyone we can accommodate their needs by delivering virtual training solutions.Our new evening course programme has launched and courses ranging from HNDs to leisure and hobby pursuits are currently taking applications online for a September start.The partners, stakeholders and employers we work with should also take a great share of the credit for aiding the smooth transition to students and modern apprentices working from home and we can’t thank them enough for their continued co-operation, understanding and invaluable assistance in creating a learning environment that allows the essential flow of knowledge to continue.As a whole our learning and teaching team has also identified the need for new online processes for induction and enrolment, created a staff expectations guidance document and developed a blended teaching model while working pro-ctively with awarding bodies such as the SQA to ensure proposed changes are acceptable to ensure a positive outcome for students.The college distributed more than 360 laptops to help learners continue their studies from home. Help like this will be maintained in the future and additional laptops purchased.The lockdown has presented an opportunity to enhance many aspects of our IT provision. This has included the creation of a staff IT skills baseline survey with the feedback used to create staff training sessions to upskill our workforce on systems such as Microsoft Teams, a scoping exercise being carried out to identify appropriate IT equipment for classrooms, creating helpful guides for using new IT equipment for teaching staff, supporting staff with home working such as monitors, laptops and peripherals and carrying out procurement for Clevertouch screens.The Scottish Government has already recognised that the college sector will play a major role in Scotland’s economic recovery. It is with great pride that I see how, despite the extraordinary situation we find ourselves in, the talented and hardworking staff at Forth Valley College have risen to the challenge to put our college in a primed and ready position to educate, train and enhance the skills of our workforce and professionals of the future to allow our industries to flourish once again.This also dovetails with the importance of the college providing support to our community partners such as schools, local authorities, the NHS and the Third sector and we have been honoured and privileged to work together on some truly inspiring and lifesaving initiatives over the past months which will strengthen our relationships with these essential bodies even further.Finally, on a personal note, it was an emotional day when we had to close our campuses but the sadness I felt then has been replaced by pride, admiration, inspiration, optimism and determination that this experience will strengthen the college as a whole and help us to make learning work in our community in the years to come.

Dr Ken Thomson, principal of Forth Valley CollegeDr Ken Thomson, principal of Forth Valley College
Dr Ken Thomson, principal of Forth Valley College

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