Raising aspirations is the name of the game at Northbrook College. Offering a remarkable range of courses for all ages and backgrounds, staff work tirelessly to open up pathways to success for every student.
Huge investment in recent years has brought the Worthing college buildings into the 21st century, offering state-of-the-art facilities which benefit the local community and attract degree students from across the country. Bold and dynamic new building opened at Broadwater campus last year, second phase is due to be unveiled in spring 2014 and the third in summer 2015, representing a total investment of £27 million. Improvements are also on-going at its Durrington campus, the University Centre.
College has a wide range of full and part-time courses for students aged 16-19, degree students aged 18-22, and for adults. It also works with local schools to offer vocational training for 14 to 16-year-olds. It has around 9,000 students in total, and age and background are no barrier to success. “We can take someone from a point where they can have quite low skills through to either higher education or into employment or apprenticeship,” said Principal Sue Dare. “As well as providing full-time education for school leavers, Northbrook is the biggest and best provider of apprenticeships across Sussex and the South Coastal region. Our range is very extensive and the key to our success is our focus on employment.”
“It’s a very supportive environment. I’ve learnt how to use my art to express my feeling about myself and my life and to use those feelings to make something positive.”
That emphasis on turning passions into careers is integral to all courses. Young artists and performers are taught how to raise their own profile and market themselves for freelance work, make business cards, websites, and prepare for exhibitions and auditions. Teachers with industry backgrounds have experience and contacts to help students take their first steps into the world of work. “I’m dyslexic and my teachers here have really helped me,” said one art student who is moving into a degree-level course. “I can get my notes on blue paper because I find I can read that more easily, and if I ever have problems with anything the teachers are there to help, or I can go to learning support. I used to do Manga art but I’ve been pushed outside my comfort zone, to try different styles to express myself. It’s been really great.” Another student added: “It’s a very supportive environment. I’ve learnt how to use my art to express my feeling about myself and my life and to use those feelings to make something positive.” Art courses cover everything from jewellery and textiles to fashion, with students winning national prizes including at Graduate Fashion Week in London.
College works closely with local industry to ensure students are gaining skills employers need. Sectors of particular interest in Sussex are health and social care, construction, and aeronautics – college has a third campus based at Shoreham airport which specialises in aircraft and motor engineering. Facilities for mechanical and manufacturing engineering are highly respected. A teacher said: “We’re getting on to be unique in Sussex for the work we can do here. We kept our equipment when many other colleges were coming under pressure to scale down their departments. We have continued to offer the highest level of training, and employers are impressed when they come here and see that our standards are as high as their own in the workplace.”
Business and professional services are popular and Northbrook has an outstanding reputation in these fields. Staff also provide training in the workplace across a range of sectors, and work with Jobcentre Plus providing advice and skills training to help people back into jobs. That work has expanded out from Worthing across Sussex.
Construction training covers everything from bricklaying and carpentry to electrical work, workshops replicating those found in the workplace.
Fully equipped professional theatre with 200 seats is used for college productions and training. As well as performance courses, students can study set and costume design, stage management and theatrical hair and make-up. “As with all our courses, the aim is for students to learn in a real working environment,” said college spokesman Shelley Jarrett. “Our theatre, restaurant, hair and beauty salons are all open to the public giving practical hands-on experience.” Students clearly enjoy this type of learning. “I’m starting my first job in a salon and I’ll be doing everything that I’ve been learning at college,” said one beauty therapy student. “Everyone on our course knows what they’ll be doing when they finish, whether it’s going into work or staying here to do another course. We have a lot of help and support choosing our next steps.”
“We offer vocational training that can take people from the age of 14 right through to degree level, and that’s been a key factor in our success.”
Music block has an exceptional range of state-of-the-art equipment, drawing students from around the country to study performance and production. The building houses rows of sound-proofed pods for recording and mixing, as well as larger rehearsal and lesson rooms. Teachers provide invaluable support for budding talent, using their contacts to introduce students to industry insiders. College also has its own record label and rooms are open in the evenings for students keen to work on their own projects.
“At a time when other college’s have seen numbers go down, ours have gone up,” said Principal Sue Dare. “We offer vocational training that can take people from the age of 14 right through to degree level, and that’s been a key factor in our success. We raise aspirations and give them to skills they need to enjoy the best possible future.”
With one eye on the needs of students and the other on requirements of local employers, Northbrook has continued its success through challenging economic times and is sure to remain at the top of its game.