PRINCIPAL and Chief Executive Rachel Kay has been named as ‘Business Person of the Year’ at this year’s North East Cheshire Business Awards, capping off a truly momentous twelve months in the history of Macclesfield College.
This coveted and prestigious award - sponsored by the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) - is in recognition of the sterling work Rachel has done in transforming and re-positioning the College, since her appointment as its Principal and Chief Executive in August 2015.
In just over 4 years, Rachel - with the help of her dedicated and highly experienced Senior Management Team - has managed to steer Macclesfield College to an enviable, leading position within the region’s competitive education sector, as well as being one of the top 30 colleges nationally for achievement, according to the latest Department for Education (DfE) Performance Tables.
These same tables - published in March 2019 - also confirm that Macclesfield College is currently the best-performing FE institution in the entire Cheshire and Warrington subregion for overall education and training across all age groups, as well as being the clear regional leader in the key 16-to-18 category. Moreover, compared with all other FE colleges in the wider Greater Manchester area, Macclesfield presently lies second overall for all ages and all levels in the education and training sector, which is a fabulous achievement and a clear testament to the relentless drive, energy and commitment shown by Rachel and her team.
Now in its ninth year, the North East Cheshire Business Awards is the region’s biggest and most prestigious event of its kind, developed by the North Cheshire Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise to acknowledge, celebrate and reward demonstrable excellence in business across Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Knutsford and the surrounding area.
This glamorous awards night - which was attended by many key local business figures from across the region - took place on the evening of Friday 8th November at The Mere Golf Resort and Spa in Knutsford. Broadcaster and voice-over artist Susan Hanks was guest speaker for the evening, which was also sponsored by a glittering array of highprofile local companies. These included AstraZeneca, leading solicitor group SAS Daniels LLP, chartered accountancy firm Harts and worldwide life sciences organisation Waters, which has a UK manufacturing base located in Wilmslow.
What’s more, there was double cause for celebration for Macclesfield College, with its dedicated employer-responsive arm - Maxim Business Training, led by Director of Employer Enterprise and Commercial Services, Tracy Cosgrave - also being named as ‘Business Team of the Year’.
Maxim Business Training was launched by Rachel in October 2015 to provide the College with a dedicated and strong employer-responsive arm that reacts positively and proactively to the needs of Cheshire’s burgeoning business community. Key to this, is the delivery of a fully integrated apprenticeships programme to help the region’s young learners gain the best possible start to their professional lives, with responsible and progressive local employers all committed to investing into the next generation of talent.
Four years on from its introduction, Maxim Business Training is now the region’s leading apprenticeships provider (again according to the latest DfE Performance Tables), with success rates at both Level 2 and Level 3 provision standing at a commendable 6.8% above the national average, and higher level provision now running at an incredible 19% above the national average, bolstered even further by strong links to regional and national businesses.
Central to the development of apprenticeships at Macclesfield College, was Rachel’s vision in creating the ‘Macclesfield Manifesto’. An innovative and far-reaching apprenticeships recruitment drive, designed to spell out the College’s complete commitment to North East Cheshire’s business community, the Macclesfield Manifesto was developed with the specific intent of engaging with the region’s young learners and training them with the skills today’s companies and organisations need and demand in order to maintain and enhance their success in an increasingly competitive commercial environment.
“The Macclesfield Manifesto was launched to build on the College’s existing good practice in this vital area,” elaborates Rachel, “enhancing employability skills and creating a stronger, more industry-focused skills base across the region. The core theme of the Manifesto - launched in January 2019 - was to recruit and train 100 local apprentices in just 100 days. We set ourselves an incredibly challenging target, but we did it and with room to spare. It was a fantastic celebration of the local economy, particularly when the number of jobs generated had reached 110 in advance of the 100th day,” confirms Rachel.
The latest product of Rachel’s highly innovative, razor-sharp commercial vision is the Whites Chef Academy. Officially launched in September 2019, the Whites Chef Academy at Macclesfield College is a pioneering concept for East Cheshire that is revolutionising culinary skills training for 16 to 18 year-olds, whilst renewing their appetite for learning in a real-time, professional kitchen and training environment.
Students enrolled at the new Whites Chef Academy study a full-time, Level 2 course in Professional Cookery. On completion of their course, they then progress to a guaranteed apprenticeship with some of the region’s top companies including the Marriott Hotel Group, DeVere Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Evuna, the Alderley Edge Hotel, the Windmill, Sodexo and Restaurant MCR, owned by local celebrity chef, restaurateur and Principal Patron of the College, Aiden Byrne.
“I made the decision to close our traditional catering offer at the end of the last academic year,” confirms Rachel, “in order to devise and realise a whole new course provision that focused squarely on the needs and demands of our region’s buoyant hospitality industry. In doing so, I found that there was a real shortage of properly trained chefs that could progress onto apprenticeships. This wonderful county of ours - with such a rich, vibrant food and drink offer - was found to be really struggling to recruit outstanding, homegrown talent to service this dynamic and exciting sector.
“With this in mind,” elaborates Rachel, “I approached Aiden to discuss my idea of the Whites Chef Academy. He liked what he heard, agreed to be our Principal Patron and our very first cohort of students are currently being trained in our state-of-the-art kitchens here at the College, with the promise of a guaranteed apprenticeship at the end of their one-year, Level 2 course. My ultimate ambition is for a future Michelin-starred chef to come from the Whites Chef Academy, and follow in Aiden’s illustrious footsteps.
“Winning the Business Person of the Year at the North East Cheshire Business Awards is an immensely proud moment for me,” admits Rachel, “but I’ve been helped massively by the hard work, drive and determination shown by my wonderful team, each of whom has played their role in making Macclesfield College such a success story.”