It was recently announced that Raoul Humphreys, CEO and Principal of Cornwall College would be stepping down from his role. I have always had great respect for Raoul. He has been with the college for many years and always had a forward-thinking outlook.
The college had a set back and some financial difficulties a couple of years ago after expansion and competition from Truro College. However, Raoul stepped in to take over the top job to shore things up. He had to take some difficult decisions, shedding a lot of staff and dropping courses. What is striking is that despite these tough decisions, he was highly regarded among staff. The way events unfolded, and the intervention of Whitehall officials has been unfair, but the important thing now is to help support the college getting back on its feet and facing the future.
Cornwall College has a deep-rooted history in our area and has been at the heart of all further and higher education in Cornwall for the last 80 years or so. I was a student at Cornwall College where I learnt how to weld and went on to study for a BTEC in Business and then farm management. It was great to return there again two weeks ago on a Saturday to attend one of their careers sessions.
The College is a vital local asset delivering work-based learning in our area. There are around 800 apprentices currently training in areas such as plumbing, carpentry and engineering.
Proposals for a new fibre park in Pool to bring together software companies and training from Cornwall College to create opportunities for local school leavers could take things to the next level. We have the chance to really put Cornwall on the map in this sector. There is a very successful cluster of software companies employing around 500 people in the Pool area. Some are based at the Pool Innovation Centre and some at Barncoose Gateway. Headforwards Software have recently taken some space at Cornwall College which is potentially the first step along the road to developing the fibre park idea.
The concept behind the fibre park idea is a simple but really effective one. Up and coming enterprises who have outgrown the innovation centre can move to larger premises and they can also establish an academy in computer software co-located on the same site so that you can have a partnership between, say, Cornwall College and local businesses. Young people taking computer courses at Cornwall College will be able to develop their talents within real working environments rather than in a classroom detached from front line innovation. It will take a lot of work to move the idea from being an interesting concept to a real venture, but I think we should give it a shot.
Despite the recent difficulties and sadness over the departure of Raoul, the staff from Cornwall College who I met two weeks ago remained totally passionate and committed to the work they do to prepare the next generation for the world of work.