New boss unveils vision for major change at City of Wolverhampton College
The new boss at Wolverhampton's further education college has outlined ambitious plans for the future, including a move into the heart of the city.
Over the next three years City of Wolverhampton College will finally complete its long-awaited move from its Paget Road home to a redeveloped base around its existing Metro One campus in the city centre.
At the same time Mal Cowgill wants to forge stronger links with the city's adult education service and with local businesses as the college expands its apprenticeship courses.
"It's vital that we increase the skills of young people, getting them 'work ready'," he said. "At the same time we need to support the skills needs of the SMEs in Wolverhampton and the wider Black Country, which in turn will support inward investment in the city – a good skills base attacts high value employers."
The college's move to the proposed City Learning Quarter is a key part of Wolverhampton council's own plans to regenerate the city centre.
"The city council have been great supporters of the college," said Mr Cowgill. "The move to the city centre will make access for students to our facilities much easier. At the same time we aim to develop our motor vehicle, engineering and construction courses at the Wellington Road campus in Bilston in parallel."
The project will be completed by September 2021.
With a quarter century's experience, Mr Cowgill has built a reputation as an FE college turnaround expert and was brought into complete a vital finance deal to secure the future of City of Wolverhampton College as it struggled to cope with major debts dating back to its foundation two decades ago, when Wulfrun and Bilston colleges merged.
A deal between the college, the city council and the Treasury's Transaction Unit, sealed earlier this year, secured the £12 million needed to pay off and restructure the existing debts and provide much-needed working capital.
Initially brought in to get the deal "over the line" and put the college on a stable footing for the future, Mr Cowgill was so impressed by the college and its staff that he "jumped at the chance" to stay in place for the next three years to deliver the programme of improvements.
"I am committed to delivering, and the corporation of the College want stability, so they have extended my contract to give me the opportunity," he said.
And its not just the college that has impressed him: "There is a real buzz around the city, and it's not just the football. There are a number of exciting developments going on, and forward-looking employers. The city – and the college – have huge potential.
"The Further Education sector is perfectly placed to offer the skills at this level this country needs. It can also be the engine for social change and social mobility. My plan is to serve the city well, and inspire people to live and work here and study at the City of Wolverhampton College."
And he is working from a strong base. The latest set of results for the college, improving on its good Ofsted report, overall success rates rising to 86 per cent, while the satisfaction score from employers, at 92 per cent, is among the top 15 per cent of colleges nationwide.
The next thing on his calender is the college's next open evening on November 28, as he continues the drive to attract more young people to increase their skills and qualifications.