WHEN Macclesfield College announced that it was pledging to recruit and train 100 local apprentices in just 100 days back in January of this year, many were aghast at this seemingly unattainable target.
However, just over three months later, that’s exactly what has been achieved... and with room to spare.
Endorsed by the College’s dynamic and highly experienced Principal and Chief Executive, Rachel Kay and driven by Director of Employer Enterprise and Commercial Services, Tracy Cosgrave, the Macclesfield Manifesto has actually resulted in 104 new apprenticeship enrolments across East Cheshire, with a further 32 candidates also recruited and waiting to be enrolled on a high quality work-based programme via Maxim Business Training, the College’s dedicated employer-responsive arm.
An innovative and far-reaching apprenticeship recruitment drive, designed to spell out the College’s complete commitment to East Cheshire’s burgeoning business community, the Macclesfield Manifesto was developed with the specific intent of engaging with the region’s young learners and training them with the specific 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 Kay, “enhancing employability skills and creating a stronger, more industry-focused skills base across the region.” In signing up to the Manifesto, local businesses committed to supporting and recommending Maxim’s leading-edge service portfolio throughout the region, and endorsing Macclesfield College - and its dedicated employer-responsive arm - as their approved provider of both apprenticeships and high quality, industry-relevant training.
Throughout the entire process, Macclesfield College and Maxim Business Training have acted as a continuous and proactive support mechanism for employers and candidates alike. Courses available ranged from Construction to Information & Communications Technologies, and the Macclesfield Manifesto specifically targeted 16 to 24 year-olds from all socio-economic backgrounds, and ensured that they are able to gain invaluable, paid work experience while they learn, helping them to begin their working lives on the firmest possible footing.
Not only has the Macclesfield Manifesto achieved a total of 136 new apprenticeship positions across East Cheshire, but it has also highlighted no fewer than 38 new vacancies region-wide that the Maxim team is currently looking to fill with suitable candidates from its talent pool.
The Macclesfield Manifesto drive culminated in a high-profile event, taking place at the College’s campus on Park Lane, Macclesfield and attended by representatives from participating businesses, as well as key local dignitaries such as MP for Macclesfield and long-term friend of the College, David Rutley and the town’s Mayor, Councillor Adam Schofield.
Addressing the specially invited audience, the College’s Director of Employer Enterprise and Commercial Services, Tracy Cosgrave said: “The last three and a half years have seen us all work tirelessly to develop an outstanding apprenticeship offer. To do this, we have worked with employers and supported them in recruiting and training their staff, providing them with their future workforce who have the skills needed so that they can sustain and grow.”
“We launched the Manifesto with the remit of engaging with more employers, and thereby providing additional apprenticeship opportunities for young people in the area,” Tracy continued. “We also wanted to promote our higher apprenticeships offer - Levels 3 to 5 - for employers to use for upskilling their existing staff, and progressing them into leadership and management positions. We set ourselves a very challenging target - 100 apprenticeships in just 100 days - but we did it.”
The Macclesfield Manifesto celebration event - which took place on Friday 5th April - also saw Employer Engagement Officer, Ashleigh Walker give a talk about her time as an apprentice, firstly in the College’s marketing department before moving on to Bollington-based agency, Embrace. “I started out wanting to work in the theatre, so I came to Macclesfield College to do a Performing Arts course, with a view to progressing onto university,” said Ashleigh. “Then I woke up one morning and decided instead to pursue an apprenticeship at the College, in the marketing department whilst working towards a Business Admin qualification, before moving on to Embrace where I did my Level 3 in marketing.
“Now I’m back at the College as an Employer Engagement Officer, because I am so passionate about opening doors for young people like me, and my job here enables me to go into local businesses and speak with experience to some really great people about taking on apprentices. I’m 21 years old,” concluded Ashleigh, “and I’ve just bought my first house and I’ve got a really good job that I love. All of my friends who went to university have since come back and got their degrees, but they’re working in part-time jobs and struggling to pay off their student debts. I’m just so glad I chose an apprenticeship atMacclesfield College.”
The College - officially rated as ‘Good’ by Ofsted in November 2017 - has recently published its five-year Strategic Plan to 2023, by which time it intends to become truly ‘Outstanding’ in all aspects of teaching, skills training and pedagogy. Key to the College’s continued growth and progression will be the ongoing expansion of its apprenticeships programme, and the team at Maxim Business Training - led by Tracy Cosgrave - are keen to liaise with more employers from across the North West and beyond, to activelypromote the benefits apprentices can bring to businesses, and discuss future skills requirements, as well as developing bespoke offers around any new apprenticeship standards that are required. “We do that every single week, here at Macclesfield College,” Tracy confirms.
“We look at what is needed and any new standards that are to be introduced. We’ve just released our Project Management standard, which I know a lot of local employers were wanting. Our schools wanted the Business Support Manager standard, which we’ve also released this year, and we’ve started to develop additional Levels 4 and 5, certainly around Science because that is an area that’s always in big demand in our particular region.”
“What’s more,” continues Tracy, “we’re working with our curriculum team to develop high-calibre, vocational courses that provide excellent pathways into apprenticeships, including our new Health and Whites Chef Academies, both of which will be launched in September of this year.”
The Macclesfield Manifesto Event ended with Tracy Cosgrave reflecting on the College’s exceptional performance in the latest National Achievement Rate Tables, published on Thursday 28th March. Taken right across the Cheshire and Warrington sub-region, Macclesfield College was confirmed as the best-performing FE institution for ‘overall education and training’ for all age groups, as well as being the clear regional leader in the 16-to-18 category. Moreover, compared with all general and further education colleges in the wider Greater Manchester area, Macclesfield lay second overall for all ages and all levels in the education and training sector.
As regards apprenticeships, the College truly excelled itself with achievement rates across all ages and all levels standing at 7.2% above the national average. Overall achievement across Levels 2 and 3 provision stood at 6.8% above the national average, whilst the corresponding figures for its higher level provision were found to be an incredible 19% above the national average. For its 24+ provision, the story was even more impressive, with Macclesfield College’s performance rated at a staggering 25.2% above the national average.
“Furthermore,” elaborates Tracy Cosgrave, “our timeliness, right across the board, were found to be the best in Cheshire and Greater Manchester, and that is absolutely fantastic for us. What was even more pleasing, however, was that for our 24+ Learners, we were rated as the best across the entire North West of England.”
Speaking at the Manifesto event, local MP David Rutley was particularly effusive in his praise for what the College has achieved in just three and a half years since the arrival of its Principal and Chief Executive, Rachel Kay. “The young people enrolled on these apprenticeship programmes are full of confidence and seem to know exactly what they want to achieve in life.
“However, it’s not just about apprenticeships. I think that Macclesfield College has been on an extraordinary journey over the last three and a half years. I remember when Rachel first arrived. I was immediately struck by her energy, enthusiasm and, of course, her absolute determination to succeed. I thought she had a good team in place and believed the College would progress well. However, I didn’t really envisage quite how successful Macclesfield College would go on to become - the best in Cheshire. Everyone should be really proud of that journey. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t happen by accident.
Everybody concerned is working really hard and taking the initiative, drive, energy and, more importantly, showing commitment to our local businesses and to our young people here in East Cheshire.”