Damian Duffy, Director of Development, Belfast Met College

Colleges’ understanding of their role and contribution to the growth and prosperity of the economy in Northern Ireland is driven by a fundamental commitment to a dual mandate supporting both economic (business) development and social inclusion.

This is mapped out in the regional FE Strategy “FE Means Success”. The real secret for an effective “civic” model in Northern Ireland is a clear understanding that colleges provide a public service and are funded to do so.

Colleges are embedded in their communities and can provide a unique insight and practical understanding to support economic development and social inclusion. Colleges in Northern Ireland are seen to have a key role in working with the business community, not only support skills and employability, but also to underpin the work which enhances business development and innovation.

The Department for Economy provides core funding to colleges to support businesses with advice, mentoring, support for upskilling/reskilling through programmes such as Assured Skills, Skills Focus and Innovateus. This approach is supported by the governance model, where colleges are classified as Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) which locates colleges closely with the Department of Economy as a delivery agent and in shaping and influencing core Departmental policy. Crucially, at the same time, colleges support better connections to the business community by having a recognised seat at the table for joint consultative groups, City Deals, Curriculum Hubs and collaborative groups – sharing information and facilitating employer engagement.

The success of this commitment to a civic-public service model is the transformative impact of a unique “not for profit” Service Level Agreement with Northern Ireland Prison Service to take over responsibility for Learning and Skills provision across three prison sites. The motivation from the outset was to deliver better outcomes for prisoners and their families and an acceptance that colleges could bring the expertise and deliver a shift change in one of the most challenging prison environments in Europe.

This work was recognised with recent comments from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales in June 2020 stating:

“Outcomes for young men at the Secure College were dramatically better than at comparable prisons in England and Wales. In light of this, we recommend those with responsibility for designing and delivering custodial services for young adults, should study the findings of this report carefully”

The understanding that colleges are vital to economic and social development is shown in the role that colleges play in the Belfast Region City Deal. They bring their expertise to support the development of a skills and employability proposition as part of a £1 billion Treasury funding package.

Working on a collaborative basis with local councils, CBI and other business development agents, we have been determined to ensure that the City Deal can deliver the jobs and economic outputs with a socially inclusive approaches to job creation and skills driven by colleges.

The close conversations with employer groups across Northern Ireland allow colleges to develop solutions which are truly responsive to the needs of the business and deliver a much closer alignment meeting and stimulate demand for skills solutions.

Working strategically with the Department of Economy and businesses during COVID-19

Since the onset of the pandemic, the colleges have worked with the Department of Economy, CBI and other business agencies to support the reconfiguration of the main Skills Focus programme to offer 100% funding for short-course programmes for furloughed and recently unemployed workers.

Colleges have also helped shape a digital solutions framework, which maps out a range of opportunities for all key stakeholders to work more closely together to deliver remote solutions to meet the needs across the region.

Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director commented:

“In respect of digital skills, we have worked closely with the FE Colleges and other stakeholders through the CBI’s Digital Working Group to address the skills gap in Northern Ireland.  

"The FE Colleges and CBI have also collaborated closely on the delivery of these skills through the City Deal and have connected through the CBI ‘People and Skills Network’ to bring together Human Resource managers from industry and the FE sector on a regular basis”.

Recognition of the importance of the dual mandate for FE colleges will continue to be key to supporting a socially inclusive economic recovery. Reflecting on these priorities will also help colleges make more balanced decisions around curriculum and involvement in projects which deliver positive impacts across society, rather than a narrow transactional focus on revenue generating activities.

Undoubtedly the change in status of FE Colleges to NDPBs in Northern Ireland, although associated with significant additional obligations in terms of public sector accountability, has been key to underpinning and reinforcing the public service ethos and building collaborative networks which allow innovative solutions to support learners, employers and communities.

The current efforts can be further reinforced in future by building even closer partnerships with Government Departments, Councils and key development agencies. By working together, we can develop and deliver local Skills and Employability plans that meet the needs of employers to support inclusive growth.

Damian Duffy, Director of Development, Belfast Met College

Damian was appointed Director of Development in Belfast Met in 2010 and has worked on issues related to skills, business and economic development in the UK, Ireland and internationally for 28 years. He has been instrumental in leading the College to a number of national awards for employer engagement, culminating with the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2019 for creating unique solutions to deliver a digital talent pipeline. He is a Director of the Northern Ireland Centre for Competitiveness and an adviser for the Belfast City Region Deal on Skills and Employability. Damian has also led on the reform of Prison Learning and Skills in Northern Ireland and is a member of the Project Monitoring Committee for the EU PEACE Programme. Having worked as a lead adviser for the EU Commission URBACT programme Damian also has a keen interest in supporting the integration of migrant communities working to create new models to test approaches which enhance social inclusion.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter yesterday

RT @FENews: NGWLive: Network Rail: NGWLive: Network Rail https://t.co/zqS6YwqgxP
View Original Tweet

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter yesterday

City of London Corporation provides Square Mile schoolchildren with food vouchers during half term break:… https://t.co/QilxKc8yaD
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page