College aims to be a cut above when it comes to business

From left, students:  Amber Glassock, Katie Thompson, Demi-Leigh Watkins, Alison Lathwell and Imogen Read, staff:  Dorne Macken, director of curriculum, Shavaun Enright, trainer assessor for hairdressing, Alison Black, Wella accounts manager for the Francesco Group, Debbie Houghton, head of hair, beauty & hospitality. Centre (seated) Dr Julie Mills, principal & chief executive

From left, students: Amber Glassock, Katie Thompson, Demi-Leigh Watkins, Alison Lathwell and Imogen Read, staff: Dorne Macken, director of curriculum, Shavaun Enright, trainer assessor for hairdressing, Alison Black, Wella accounts manager for the Francesco Group, Debbie Houghton, head of hair, beauty & hospitality. Centre (seated) Dr Julie Mills, principal & chief executive

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A college’s partnership with a group of hair and beauty salons is just the start of a new phase of relationships with businesses across Milton Keynes.

MK College, based in Leadenhall, has formed a partnership with the Francesco Group to open a branded and commercially oriented salon to give hairdressing students training and valuable experience in the world of work.

The college has recently beefed up its management with the appointment of Nick Isles as deputy principal and computer expert Dr Daniel Hidlebaugh. Mr Isles has provided business consultancy services to internationally known names like Tesco and Asda as well as being an advisor to leading politicians in Britain and Europe.

The latest buzz phrase in the college is what they call “co-producing solutions” where they work with businesses to rectify skills shortages. Mr Isles said sometimes businesses can’t quite put their fingers on what they need but know that things aren’t going quite right.

Other, usually larger, businesses are looking at planning their workforces over 10 years and identifying the kinds of skills they will need students to have in the future, Mr Isles said.

In the case of the partnership with the Francesco Group, it also means working up a lecture programme for college staff to help ensure they are up-to-date with the latest techniques and industry practices. In this way the partnership aims to bridge the gap between college training and the standards expected at top salons.

The college is looking at the issue of skills from a strategic level. It is closely involved in working up a strategy for increasing the skills and employability of local residents as a part of Milton Keynes’s bid for financial freedom under the City Deal process.

Mr Isles said some of the skills gaps already identified include in project management, the creative industries and in engineering and technical. Current skills deficits mean that thousands of people commute into the new city to work while there are areas of Milton Keynes with relatively high levels of unemployment and low skills.