The new Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Milton Keynes College Group, says it’s time for the city to train more of the people industry and business needs, rather than relying on bringing skilled people in from outside.
Jason Mansell has just been appointed to the role after twenty-four years at the College which has seen him rise from prison lecturer to second-in-command at the growing education group.
Jason says, “Milton Keynes is the fastest growing city in the country yet those working in the city earn more than those living in the city. My ambition is to see that gap close as we provide the skills and knowledge most in need locally by giving them to our own young people.”
Jason says the key to achieving his goal will be the relationship between the College Group and local companies.
“I would appeal to businesses large and small in Milton Keynes to come to talk to us. We know that many of you are struggling to fill your job vacancies, and we can tell that by the significant numbers of people moving here from elsewhere to take up employment.
"Tell us what you need, and whether through apprenticeships or T-Levels or the Microsoft-accredited digital courses we offer at the South Central Institute of Technology, we will help you plug those gaps.
"The days of one-size-fits-all college courses are long gone, and we can tailor what a student learns to meet your specific needs.”
Jason says that attitudes are changing among parents and potential students when it comes to what to do after leaving school.
“For years, families have thought there were only two routes school leavers could take; straight into a job or going to university to get a degree first. They’re starting to appreciate that there is a middle way which offers the best of both worlds, earning and learning at the same time as people taking apprenticeships do.
"I know one young man who fought tooth and nail with his mum because he wanted to do an apprenticeship while she thought he was wasting his best opportunity by not going to university. Now he’s 21 and working for a globally known engineering company with a terrific career path ahead of him and earning £60,000 per year.
"If he’d gone to university, he’d be just starting out in work now with several years less experience, being paid less than half as much.”
Jason says it’s stories like that that inspire him to do the job he does, and recalls a particularly moving moment with one of the College Group’s former prison students.
“He came to an event we were running around our work in prisons, and he explained how he’d got involved with one of our prison academies, ending up getting a job in the construction industry once he’d finished his sentence. He explained how he was just about to take his family on holiday for the first time using money that he earned legally.
"He said it made him feel like a proper family man. That’s the real power of education. He’s gone from breaking the law and costing the taxpayer money to being a taxpayer himself, carving out a good life as a contributing member of society.”
“If that didn’t inspire you to get up for work each morning, I don’t know what would. It certainly inspires me, and I’m committed to driving the College Group to address the skills gaps in our city and supporting our students to develop successful and exciting careers.”