Graham Stuart, MP has commended the work of staff and students at East Riding College (ERC) throughout the coronavirus pandemic following a virtual meeting with the college’s Principal, Mike Welsh.
Following the closure of schools across the country to all except a few students in order to prevent the inadvertent asymptomatic spread of Covid-19, the college – which has campuses in Beverley, Bridlington and Hull – switched to an online learning programme over the course of a few days – rolling out home-studying and home-working to almost 3,500 students and staff.
The switch proved a successful one, with an internal survey by the college indicating that its students’ enjoyment of studying from home was ‘good’ overall, with communication from the college’s tutors being ranked as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.
As well as providing Further and Higher Education courses, the college supports a number of apprenticeships at employers across the constituency. HMRC guidelines meant that although furloughed employees weren’t allowed to carry out any work while on leave in order to be eligible for government grants, they were able to continue with any training.
Reacting to this, the college has supported employers through the crisis by advising those with apprentices and moving to online or remote delivery of training and assessments.
“East Riding College is an excellent example of a local institution supporting its wider community at a time of national crisis. This kind of community-focused thinking will definitely be needed as we move into a post-COVID world.
“Colleges like ERC are going to be vital as we continue to build people’s skills, which is particularly important as our economy recovers from the aftershocks of the pandemic. I’m delighted that the Government has recognised how important this is and is investing billions into making sure that everyone who wants one has the chance of an apprenticeship or in-work placement.”
Principal Mike Welsh added;
“We were already preparing to roll out a new e-learning platform, so we brought forward our plans and were able to successfully deliver teaching remotely, online from the start of lockdown.
“This required enormous efforts on the part of our teaching teams and IT department. However, we rose to the challenge as it was important that our students’ learning was disrupted as little as possible at that crucial point in the year.
“The experience has highlighted how adaptable and resilient our students are too – both skills they will need in the workplaces of the future.”
The college has also been a major player in contributing to the local response to the pandemic in addition to its teaching and learning support. Staff have been supported to put in hundreds of volunteering hours over the last three months, including taking part in the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme – carrying out essential work such as shopping and delivering prescriptions to vulnerable people self-isolating or shielding.
Tutors, Joy Verda and Beth Jacob, both joined the movement to make scrubs, gowns and masks for healthcare staff in the region.
Fashion tutor Beth worked with a local tailor in Hull to produce 250 surgical gowns a day, which were distributed to Hull Royal Infirmary, while art & design tutor Joy enlisted former students to make scrubs and triple-layered masks. The college itself donated its stocks of disposable PPE, which were sent to local community nurses.
As part of a consortium of mainly education providers, led by the University of Hull, the college also contributed to the supply of face shields, by loaning out its 3D printers to boost the capacity at the University’s Aura Innovation Centre. The project donated 3D-printed visors to 15 local healthcare providers and residential care homes.
Mike Welsh said;
“The pandemic has highlighted that the college is very much at the heart of its community, whether through the staff and students themselves playing their part or through the wider responsibility we feel to prepare our students for the future and to offer support to employers in the region.
“Come September, we will be helping many individuals – both young people and adults – to prepare for a somewhat uncertain future. Colleges are uniquely placed to play a major part in the economic revival that needs to take place, and we pride ourselves here on the fact that we are training the key workers of the future – the resilient, employable individuals that will help rebuild our economy.”