SHINY pink lettering has now gone up flagging up that a former Greenwich further education college is being rejuvenated following a three way merger.
Greenwich Community College, Bromley College and Bexley College merged to form London South East Colleges last Autumn to create one of the country’s largest further education institutions . Across its eight campuses there is a huge array of vocational and academic courses ranging from 14 plus provision to degrees. A visit to the former GCC building in Plumstead Road, last week (1), revealed that the students are already benefiting from the merger.
Bromley College’s award winning training restaurant BR6 run by catering and hospitality students has opened its doors on the Greenwich site. Due to demand motor vehicle repairs courses have been brought back and the popular and well resourced hair and beauty department is to be expanded. A new performing arts department offering full time Level 1 to 3 vocational courses in dance, drama, fashion, music and technical theatre is to launch in September. In terms of higher education the college is offering an HND in Business plus Events and Venue Management Foundation Degree. And LSEC’s unique employability program “The Career Advantage” has also been introduced along with the college’s key focus on working with employers to ensure skill gaps in the area are met.
Lisa Stubbs the assistant principal of the college with responsibility for creative and cultural industries heads both the Greenwich and Bexley campuses. Showing me around the new BR6@ Greenwichrestaurant, she said: “This is one of the benefits the merger has already brought to the site. It is for students and staff and is jam packed on busy college days – it is really popular.
“It is all run by students who work on all aspects of it not just preparing and cooking the food. The students get to experience what it is like working in a real restaurant with paying customers. As a college we are very much focused on employability of the students and we work with a lot of employers – we sit down with them and ask them what skills they need.”
“One is Alison and Price a high end catering company which has given the students some wonderful opportunities – last year a group took part in a event at the British Museum and this year they are going to work on one at the Victoria and Albert Museum.”
Mona MacKenzie, the front of house manager and trainer, told The Mercury: “It gives the students the whole experience of planning and making food and then selling it to customers. They get to do everything from start to finish. It means they learning lots of skills from getting involved with the ordering side, learning about the legislation on health and safety. The restaurant offers so much more such as working as part of a team and the duty of care towards customers. Its a real business that is the main point.”
Student Sophie McCrossen, 18, said: “Its great because we get to do everything. I particularly enjoy making cakes and I hope in the future to open my own cafe selling them.”
Salvatore Mitre, 50, said: “I just love it because it is experience of cooking on a big scale. I had worked in burger bars before this is a chance to learn really cooking skills. I really enjoy making Italian sauces. I hope to work somewhere like a care home after this.”
Alex Taylor the training manager from Harrison Caterers, which is among the companies linked up to the college, told The Mercury: “We cater for independent and state schools so we can offer a lot of work experience opportunities for the students to find out what it is really like working in a kitchen. People might see a school kitchen as not the glamorous high end of catering but we make food from all fresh nutritious food which is highly skilled.
“We have become accredited by the Inspire programme run by the Springboard Charity for our program to give high quality meaningful work experience. There is great opportunities in the sector as there is a chef shortage so it is great to encourage talent.”
The college also has the more intimate GMT venue which is a training restaurant where students with special needs can work with support from specialist staff.
Over in hair and beauty there is a replica salon all kitted out with the latest professional standard equipment. Salon 95 with a direct entrance welcomes the public for a full range of treatments at very competitive prices. For hair cutting, styling, colouring, perming is on offer while the beauty treatments range from waxing, manicures, massages to electrical facial services.
Ms Stubbs, said: “This is to double in size and from September we are going to bring in theatrical and film make up which will link up to the new media and performance courses.
The former actress who has lectured in both further and higher education, said: “We are really excited about the new performance courses. We have been building up contacts with all the arts and performance groups and organisations in the area including Rose Bruford College in Sidcup.
Greenwich Music Hub which runs classes in all the borough’s primary schools is to be based here as well.”
Vinetta McIntosh, the group leader for hair, said: “Its a real professional salon but with affordable prices which is brilliant for the area. We also plan to start opening on Saturdays as well as during the week. We have Level 3 students for the first time this year and so we can offer customers a bigger service. All customers get a consultation and the work is done to the industry’s standards – it might take a little longer but teaching staff oversee it all.”
“We have had students from all backgrounds some straight from school and one recent student who was at university but decided to pursue her passion for hair dressing instead. We also over maths and English skills as an imbedded part of the course
“I trained in a West End salon in both Afro and European hair and studied at the London College of Fashion and did a lot of shows and competitions. There are lots of fantastic possibilities for the students.”
Miquie Allen, 17 who gave me some pampering with a lovely manicure, said she had not felt inspired by school. But the teen whose commute to the college is over an hour each way, said: “Its great here – I have learned so much. I really like doing waxing and so I hope to get a job doing this at a spa.”
Over in a tourism class the students are wearing a uniform similar to those worn by workers in the industry. Lecturer Margarette Alcindor, said: “A lot of the students are interested in going into the aviation industry and this is the type of uniform they would have to wear. The students get to plan real events for the college and are currently organising a cultural one for which they are working on everything including its promotion and making the marketing materials. We have good links with the hospitality industry such as Novotel hotel group and so they can get good work placements. I worked for British Airways for 20 years and still have good links there and so they also go up to the BA training centre at Heathrow.”
Lecturer Asim Sheikh, who is leading a business class – which is another area set for expansion at Greenwich, told The Mercury: “Students are aiming to work in marketing, finance and human resources or go on to study business at university. Good links with companies including Barclays and Horizon Enterprise. The course is both practical and academic with the focus on employability and aim to make the students work ready”.
Sinead Scafe, 17 from Woolwich She said: “Its great it has good mix of subjects and ways of working and the staff are really encouraging. I am hoping to get an apprenticeship in human resources after this. I am really enjoying it and have recommended it to my sister.”
A wide range of adult and community courses are also being developed with Greenwich council for the site and for the Greenwich Park Centre and Eltham Centre. Adrian Powell, the vice principle responsible for the area, said: “We have a huge range of short courses with anything from lip reading, ESOL, modern languages, creative writing and jewellery design. A lot of our craft and arts courses are well loved and many students have been going to them for years which is great. We want to keep these but we also want to reach out to attract new students – we want to provide employability skills for the harder to reach and help them overcome barriers to learning.”
All students continue to study maths and English if they do not have a GCSE grade C in the subjects and access to higher education courses are also available. The Greenwich sites for the college also include the Construction Skills centre in Tuesday Road, Kidbrooke.
LSEC headed by principal Sam Parrett OBE has a total of around 13,000 students, 1200 staff members and a combined turnover of £50m
An open day at the Greenwich campus at 95 Plumstead Road is to be held on Wednesday from 4pm until 7pm.