With campuses in Eastbourne, Lewes and Newhaven, Sussex Downs College (SDC) is the one stop destination for further education in the South East.
Academic courses, including A levels, are taught alongside vocational courses, Foundation Degrees and apprenticeships. Students choose SDC for its outstanding facilities and quality of teaching.
In 2014 Ofsted said SDC was “delivering good quality teaching to students, with a vibrant and inclusive environment for all”.
Newly revamped Construction Centre is home to carpentry, plumbing and more, providing first class training to students. The Motor Vehicle department is the only body shop provider at an FE college in the South East, offering unrivalled training as a result. Brickwork Centre is building on its success each year. In 2014 one student was named `Learner of the Year’ in the VQ Awards for the South East. Another brickwork student is competing for a place on the UK squad bound for WorldSkills in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2015.
Whether destined for university, a vocational course or apprenticeship, SDC offers a vast array of options.
SDC is ranked the highest FE College in the South East for student satisfaction according to the National Student Survey 2014.
Strong links with the business community enables SDC to develop courses to meet the needs of local employers, and ensure students have the best skills for today’s jobs market.
Apprenticeships are held in high regard, with the college’s specialist recruitment service, SDC Recruit, effectively placing apprentices of all ages with local companies. Principal and chief executive Melanie Hunt said: “We’re working with 800 employers across the area and we support them training their own staff, with apprentices who come to college one day a week and we also offer training in the workplace.”
One East Sussex accountancy firm was so impressed with the high calibre of apprentices made available through the college that they are about to take on their fourth apprentice! Apprenticeships, offered all the way up to degree level are proving popular and provide an affordable alternative to a university course.
Catering and Hospitality students at SDC have the opportunity to work with local restaurants. Kings Bistro and Restaurant, the on-site venue at Eastbourne campus, is open to the public and also used for charity dinners organised, catered and hosted by students. This taste of real work environment with practical experience and a chance to meet industry professionals maximises students’ chance of moving into work at the end of study. Jamie Oliver started his culinary career as an apprentice and look at him now!
Same is true of sports facilities, with many local groups making good use of the college’s impressive indoor sports hall and outdoor track. This is located on the Eastbourne campus and is a joint project between the college, borough and county councils and Sport England. Local primary schools also invited in for a sports festival every year, organised and led by college students. Members of the public can take advantage of on-site facilities including hair salon and beauty therapy rooms.
This year, relationships have been established with leading Sussex venues, including Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery, Eastbourne Theatres and Drusilla’s Park. This allows students to undertake invaluable work experience and support local businesses at the same time. Opportunities are also open to students to write a column for the local paper, the Eastbourne Herald, and DJ/produce for Radio DGH.
College links with wider community don’t end there. Business students work with local businesses who help and inspire them to set up their own ventures. Media students run a student magazine, a youth radio station and work with local schools. South Downs rangers from the National Park are working on environmental project with students. Public services course trains young people who want to join uniformed services and other public services, and students are now working as PCSOs
SDC offers a wide range of pathways for students, whatever their ability or level of entry. Mrs Hunt added: “We will have something suitable for you. We’re not about doing qualifications for the sake of it. All our qualifications are a stepping stone to further education or to employment.”
College has seen increased demand for mixed courses – made up of two A levels and a vocational qualification. The training is more practical than purely academic courses and can leave more options. Mrs Hunt said: “University is a hugely enriching academic experience, but a very expensive decision these days. Young people are realising they have to be really sure the degree they are choosing will help them get a job in the future, and isn’t just something that’s interesting to do.”
On campus, workshops and classrooms are interspersed with relaxing areas to chill out and socialise. Learning resource areas are packed with students, and the expansive grounds make the perfect location in the warm summer months.
SDC is proud of its award-winning students on all levels, who win national awards, gain sporting recognition and win medals in regional competitions.
With such a tempting and huge range of opportunities, there really is something for everyone.