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28TH MAY 2024

Matthew Burgess: Bridging Education and Industry in Gloucestershire

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Matthew Burgess Bridging Education and Industry in Gloucestershire
Matthew Burgess Bridging Education and Industry in Gloucestershire

Matthew Burgess, the Principal and CEO of Gloucestershire College, has been at the forefront of initiatives aimed at bridging the gap between education and industry in Gloucestershire to ensure a prosperous future for both learners and employers.

We sat down with Matthew Burgess to discuss the challenges businesses are currently facing and the solutions to drive growth and foster a vibrant, skilled workforce in Gloucestershire. Read what he had to say.

What initiatives is Gloucestershire College involved in when working with the county’s business sector? 

Working with employers to ensure they have the talent to be prosperous is a fundamental role of the College – we want there to be rewarding career opportunities for our learners when they leave. We work with employers across all sectors of the economy to co-design and in some cases co-deliver the curriculum.  Every year we take on apprentices from over 1500 employers across the County in a range of sectors from Mechanical Engineering to Dental Nursing. Employers support us providing meaningful work experience opportunities for our learners. We create bespoke programmes for employers. I would highlight a couple of sectors. 

Construction – as well as engaging with employers directly we are part of the Constructing Excellence partnership which helps us get a clear line of sight on emerging skills needs. The growth projections in this sector are ambitious and require a sizeable increase in people coming into the Construction workforce. We already have a significant Construction offering in Cheltenham, Gloucester and the Forest of Dean, but recognising the demands in the sector we are currently developing an additional £5m Construction centre in Cheltenham focusing on sustainable technologies, which will open in September 2024. 

Cyber – we have been working alongside partners such as Cynam and indeed the whole Golden Valley development to realise the ambition for the County to become the national centre for Cyber training. A few years ago we invested in a £3m cyber training facility located at our Cheltenham campus adjacent to GCHQ and partnered with UWE to develop new cyber programmes. We are the only provider in England to offer a degree apprenticeship in cyber endorsed by the National Cyber Security Centre and this and other programmes attracts learners nationally. We have also partnered with Hub8 to operate an innovation centre attracting developing technology businesses, also operated at our Cheltenham campus. This provides a fabulous environment where business and academia are co-located, giving our employers access to a pipeline of talent in our students, and our students the ability to develop their skills through access to employers and real work issues. 

Where do the key challenges lie for businesses in Gloucestershire? 

I think the biggest challenge is undoubtedly demographic – the size of the working age population is simply not growing at the rate needed to meet the demands of all sectors. We are working to provide skilled staff in each area but this is a constraining factor. In many industries this can be offset by the emerging technological changes such as Artificial Intelligence which poses enormous opportunities and also risks, and I think employers are only at the beginning of the journey to really understand and respond to this development. 

Is Gloucestershire an attractive place for investment and is it fulfilling its potential on this front? 

I think there is much to commend Gloucestershire as a place to live, work and invest. Apart from the natural resources and landscape, it has for example a vibrant and well-connected business community, and access to high quality training facilities. 

Other people would know better than me whether it is fulfilling potential. There is significant investment and County attracts very many people to relocate here. The workforce is on the whole well-qualified and skilled compared to other parts of the County.  

But as an educationalist I know that there is a massive polarisation of attainment within the county, and learners from disadvantaged backgrounds make poorer progress here than other areas. If we are going to make a step change around productivity, this needs to be addressed. It certainly correlates to a school system that is characterised by a greater number of selective and fee-paying schools than elsewhere, and we could debate at length cause and effect, but Gloucestershire could be so much more prosperous if this attainment gap was addressed. 

Future-proof your business with apprenticeships

As a trusted partner of more than 1,000 Gloucestershire-based companies and delivering apprenticeships for over 30 years, we understand the skills needs faced by industry sectors and offer apprenticeships in a range of industries.

Apprenticeships offer real and measurable benefits for employers. Investing in your existing workforce or recruiting new talent, they are proven to increase productivity, improve motivation and offer reliable and skilled succession planning.

Our dedicated award-winning team is committed to supporting your business and apprentices, whatever your goals and business needs. Get in touch for a no-obligation consultation by emailing employer.training@gloscol.ac.uk or calling 0345 155 2020 (option 1).