Blackpool Skills Academy was formed in 2022 and registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC) to help communicate its social values and support not-for-profit objectives.
It built on the success of Unique Training Group (UTG), founded by David Hodge and Rick Jennings, two successful building contractors in the Blackpool area with a history in teaching. Here is an article and video from the Blackpool Gazette that celebrates the early days.
They were joined by Andy Iredale, a further education expert who has led and collaborated on a range of Blackpool projects including the Opportunity Area, Careers Academy, Local Enterprise Growth Initiative (Blackpool Build Up), and the delivery of 14-16 education. He works nationally with the DfE and Careers Enterprise Company and supports many hundred schools with their digital, governance and growth strategies.
Their vision for the training business is borne from many years teaching thousands of young people in large further education colleges, where it was often difficult to maintain close relationships with schools, students and employers.
Following acquisition of the Stanley Road building in central Blackpool, the initial objective was to support no more than 300 young apprentices to work with the family of local construction employers. As Apprenticeship numbers grew, it became clear that there was an interest from local schools to access 14-16 Alternative Provision on a 2-day per week basis. All Blackpool schools and multi-academy trusts have now accessed this construction provision and sponsorship was received to introduce a hair and beauty curriculum - three salon workshops are now on the second floor with a separate theory classroom. A suite of traditional classrooms are used for theory work and to underpin science, mathematics, and English GCSEs.
The 14-16 experience borrows from the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) classroom where pre-school children engage in a carousel of vocational activities that teachers link to learning outcomes. A key EYFS strategy is to let young people explore their interests and enthusiasms as they move between activities such as art, construction, and music, to reading, catering, and digital skills. Through play, children develop language skills, their emotions, creativity, social and intellectual capabilities.
In much the same way, Blackpool Skills Academy lets KS4 young people explore the 'trades' and move between activities as their enthusiasm and concentration allows:
- painting and decorating
- beauty therapy
We are working with other social enterprises and local employers to add more employment-related activities to the curriculum. A central Blackpool location supports these links:
- social care
- performing arts and music
- engineering and manufacturing
We hope you find the Blackpool Skills Academy proposition of interest and we would be delighted to discuss how we can help your young people, school, or business achieve real social value objectives and improve life chances.