3 April 2017

  |  CBI Scotland


Member Spotlight: Forth Valley College

Further education colleges make an essential contribution to the vibrancy and effectiveness of local and national economies.

Member Spotlight: Forth Valley College

We asked Dr Ken Thomson (pictured above), Principal of Forth Valley College, to explain some of the steps that the award-winning institution has been taking to prepare students to meet the evolving needs of employers. 

Further education colleges make an essential contribution to the vibrancy and effectiveness of local and national economies. This edition of Member Spotlight is focused on the award winning Forth Valley College, which has campuses in Falkirk, Alloa and Stirling.

Principal Dr Ken Thomson leads more than 600 staff at the college which boasts over 14,500 students, offers more than 750 courses and supports and works closely with hundreds of employers.

Approximately 90% of students successfully progress into employment or university upon completion of their course at Forth Valley College. Its mission statement of Making Learning Work promotes a holistic college approach which has won UK-wide awards for innovation.

Who are we and what do we do?

Dr Thomson, said: “Forth Valley College is recognised as one of Scotland’s key education and training providers. We have an excellent track record of delivering a wide range of training and courses to meet the needs of industry, both local to our campuses in Falkirk, Alloa and Stirling, across the UK and internationally.

"Each of our campuses specialise in courses and training specific to that area, so in Falkirk – to dovetail with the oil, gas and petrochemical industries based at the Grangemouth refinery – science and engineering is the main focus.

"In historic Stirling it is hospitality, tourism, creative industries and, in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland, we have a conservation centre focussing on traditional skills such as stonemasonry. 

"We have created a hub in our Alloa Campus by locating our Department of Business here and at this campus we also offer a unique Facilities Management Training Centre in partnership with FES FM, to train Modern Apprentices (MAs) from across the UK.

“Our programmes and training provision are designed to meet the needs of industry and we seek to deliver to all young people through to adults. We are one of the largest MA training providers in Scotland and train more than 1000 MAs each year in: Business and Administration; Construction; Engineering; Hairdressing; Health and Social Care; Hospitality; Life Science; and Management.

"Furthermore due to the high standard of facilities, equipment and industry trained staff, the college can offer very hands on practical training that meets the needs of many companies and provides the learner with the right skills and with a much greater chance of a positive outcome on completion of the course.

“Delivery of our courses is on both a full and part-time basis – from Access courses to Honours degree – with strong links to industry and business and an excellent ability to work with employers to address needs and develop concrete and innovative programmes to meet their skills requirements.

"As a regional college, Forth Valley works closely with other colleges across Scotland to support national needs and has developed a number of innovative links with Higher Education. We are also very proud of a number of articulation agreements and routes on to Degree and Masters qualifications with Stirling, Heriot Watt, Strathclyde and Edinburgh Universities.”

What economic benefits does a college like FVC bring?

“We recently commissioned an impact report on the college and it showed that we can demonstrate our value in ways that go beyond the past expectations of the FE sector. In the past Colleges have been asked to meet output related targets such as student numbers, student retention and student destination. 

“What the college can do now is to show how it meets and exceeds these outputs by demonstrating our economic impact and how we benefit businesses. From a monetary pointy of view results showed that during 2015-16, the college made a direct impact contribution of £74m with a Gross Value Added (GVA) of £49m to the economy (figures based on an annual return).

"As far as benefits to businesses go, these testimonials speak for themselves.”

“The work that we have been able to do with Forth Valley College has quite simply changed the ‘skills landscape’ for us in Scotland.  Their support in both helping to bring things together and then delivering the right courses to the right people has been fantastic and is very much appreciated – and has allowed us to invest in skills with confidence.”

Craig Arthur, Scottish Power

“The College is very close to us geographically but they are also very close to us in other ways.  We expect and get a very high quality education and training service from them (Forth Valley College), however there’s more to it than that. 

"As well as their expertise in understanding the skills we need, they also understand the business that we are in and that’s important.  We see the college as a partner and their approach to doing business with us – their business model – smacks of professionalism”.

Ian Fyfe, INEOS

What’s the future for FVC?

“We will to complete our estates new build programme with the completion of our new Falkirk Campus HQ in August 2019. This follows on from the construction of award winning new campuses – totalling £50 million – on time and to budget at Alloa in 2011 and at Stirling in 2012.

“These are exciting times for the college, its staff, its current and future students, our employer partners and for the economy of Forth Valley as a whole and we are delighted to be at the heart of this and Making Learning Work for the area and beyond.”