Birkenhead’s Engineering College has retained its impressive ‘Grade 2’ OFSTED status making it one of the best performing technical training providers in the region.
Three years on since the previous OFSTED report in 2014, the college underwent a two-day inspection by Government officials between June 14 and 15.
Engineering College chief executive Terry Weston said the report is now live following its most rigorous inspection to date across all areas. The assessment considered progression and achievements of students, quality of teaching, learning and assessments, safeguarding and promotion of equality and diversity.
The college was praised in particular for ‘good progress’ in maintaining high achievement rates with more than three quarters of apprentices completing their programme within the planned timescale – significantly higher than national rates for similar providers.
It received further positive feedback for a recent rebrand and ‘celebration’ of diversity and equality with a higher proportion of applicants from under-represented groups, such as females, now applying to the college.
Inspectors reported that teachers use a ‘range of effective assessment strategies’ in lessons to ensure apprentices make the right progress. English and maths skills are being integrated to a ‘good standard’ which is valued by employers. Meanwhile, teachers challenge apprentices ‘very affectively’ to develop higher-level skills that will make them more employable in the engineering industry.
“This has been one of the most challenging OFSTED inspections that the college has ever experienced since I have been here,” said Mr Weston. “They do however present an opportunity for our team to showcase what we do, how we do it and hear genuine feedback on our areas for improvement. At the Engineering College, we are always striving to reach higher standards and to lead the charge in the delivery of technical apprenticeships across industry. In this respect, we embrace the challenge brought by these sort of inspections and audits which can be a hugely positive experience for the team.
“Retaining the Grade 2 status brings pride and purpose to the entire operation. We can move forward with confidence about what we do well with a firm strategy on areas to improve. Our students and clients can also have confidence that we will ensure their needs are met and will remain diligent in our efforts to unearth and nurture high-quality engineers for the future. Importantly, we will continue to develop and invest in our staff who are the bedrock of this organisation, while supporting a broader national agenda for skilled engineers to address the skills gap recognised in industry.”
The Birkenhead college now employs 38 staff and is witnessing strong growth with apprentice numbers recently rising to 330. These are drawn from around 90 clients ranging from large private businesses to SMEs operating across multiple sectors including construction, nuclear, petrochemical, renewables, oil and gas, the NHS and maritime.
Mr Weston the report highlighted six of the seven areas identified in the previous inspection as ‘reasons why the college was not yet outstanding’ had been rectified.
“We will continue to strive towards achieving an ‘Outstanding’ grade,” he said. “Since our last inspection we have focused efforts on the promotion of equality and diversity within the college, and to a wider engineering industry.
“More than one third of our students are from disadvantaged backgrounds and have developed the skills and knowledge for a long-term career in engineering. The report indicates that we have strengthened our work in diversity considerably by implementing a learner council, run by students. This tackles some of the biggest topics for the UK at present, including British citizenship. It was also recorded that apprentices take part in various charitable activities enthusiastically to support those in the community who are less fortunate.
“While the senior management and training staff at the college are greatly passionate about training engineers for the future, we are also equally determined to develop key personal qualities in our young recruits. We are looking to develop and instil qualities of compassion, diligence, responsibility and accountability. This is central to our ethos.”
For the full inspection report, please visit https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/54873
For more information on apprenticeship courses contact the college on 0151 666 1028 or visit the website www.theengineeringcollege.co.uk
First founded in 1998, today The Engineering College has a turnover of £1.7million and 38 staff. It has grown apprentice numbers to 330, drawn from 90 clients ranging from large private businesses including, Balfour Beatty and Clarke Energy to SMEs including Sovex and Laker Vent. The £500,000 refurbishment of its 6500m2 facilities in Birkenhead was part-funded through Liverpool City Region’s Growth Deal. Apprentices and other learners are benefitting from additional classroom space and new high-tech engineering equipment to train with including a virtual welding simulator. The launch event was also an opportunity for The Engineering College and its staff to promote its strong role connecting industry and education, as well as discussing the new Apprenticeship Levy. To mark National Apprenticeship Week the launch also ‘showcased’ a number of the college’s ‘star apprentices’ , from first year apprentices through to HNC level students following Higher Apprenticeships.