Alison Andreas

Principal and Chief Executive, Colchester Institute

"Growth presents new opportunities for partnerships with business."

How would you best describe Colchester Institute and its values?

Colchester Institute is a provider of education and skills to all sectors of the community from entry to degree level, offering full and part time learning to all age groups. We support the economic wellbeing of the community by providing to individuals the skills, knowledge and attitudes to secure, and then succeed in, employment and by providing to employers, a pipeline of skilled and qualified employees.

Colchester Institute puts the success and wellbeing of students and a positive student experience at the core of its values. It sets high expectations of all involved and aims for excellence in everything. The College values equality, diversity and respect and recognises the need to break down barriers to success.

Who started Colchester Institute and when, how has it evolved to date?

Colchester Institute, formerly known as North East Essex Technical College, opened in 1954. In the 1970s, following structural changes, it became known as Colchester Institute. In May 2016, permission was granted to deliver the Higher Education (degree provision) element of our work under the banner of ‘University Centre Colchester’.

 How big is Colchester Institute now?

There are approximately 11,000 student enrolments every year of which around 44% are 16-19 year olds in full time Further Education, 20% are apprentices and 13% are studying at degree level. The remainder are adults on mainly part-time programmes, some of which are fully funded by the government.

The College’s turnover is approximately £40million and there are almost 1500 full and part time staff.

How do you see Colchester Institute evolving over the next 5 years?

Growing the provision of skills and focusing on skills priorities in line with employer and local economic needs, in particular, providing the skills needed to support local plans. These include the growth in housing locally and regionally and opportunities related to the upgrade of the road and rail infrastructure as well as large-scale off shore and nuclear energy projects.

Construction and engineering skills will be vital to these. Additionally, the acute need for skills in the health and care sectors as well as in creative and digital media creates a huge demand which we must support. We anticipate growth in apprenticeships (with a larger volume of students choosing this route as opposed to full time study at all levels). The government’s proposals to develop T Levels (Technical Levels) will require us to provide more substantial work placement opportunities to full-time students than is currently the case.

What are the advantages of being a Colchester-based organisation?

  • The College benefits from the good relationships that exist in the town with schools and other education providers.
  • The highly respected University of Essex, our partner University, is located in the town and as such, our degree students can access many of the University’s resources in addition to our own.
  • The diverse range of employers who engage with Colchester Institute as their skills provider.
  • The pro-active Borough Council.
  • The town’s proximity to London and to major ports and airports.

 What are the biggest challenges for business in Colchester?

For us, challenges come from the fact that the town does not have a distinct predominant business sector, and there are relatively few large organisations in the borough. This means, as a skills provider, the engagement is with many different small and medium sized organisations.

The current unreliable road infrastructure, especially the A12 and A120, makes travel between our sites in Tendring, Colchester and Braintree unpredictable.

As the town expands, what opportunities does this create for both Colchester Institute and for the town generally?

Expansion is good for students as they can see the opportunities that new and different businesses in the town can bring in relation to employment opportunities.

The growth is exciting. There will be opportunities for new partnerships with businesses which will lead to further opportunities for work experience and for apprenticeships – a great way of providing skills training to people of all ages.

Nationally, there is likely to be an increase in the demand for a wide range of  skills once, post-Brexit, labour and skills cannot so easily be imported from abroad.

Of the 4 key themes being promoted by the Colchester Ambassadors, which is the most important to you and why?

To me they are all important and they stand together to make Colchester great, but if I had to choose one, it would be ‘Creating Capital in Colchester’. Colchester Institute’s mission is to deliver first-class education, professional development and technical skills training to develop careers and strengthen the local economy.

The strategic plan from 2017 to 2020 contains five priorities – the second of which is to ‘play a greater role in driving local and regional economic growth’. We’re excited about the very real contribution we can make to this ambitious and fast growing Borough.