Sir Michael Barber, Chair of the Office for Students (OfS), gave a keynote speech to the business and academic community of the Black Country at the University of Wolverhampton recently.
The speech was given at the first in a series of challenge speaker conferences organised by Aspire to HE (higher education) in partnership with Spectra First to support the government’s goal to get more young people, from less advantaged backgrounds, into higher education by 2020.
Aspire to HE is a partnership, led by the University of Wolverhampton, that aims to increase the number of pupils from year 9-13 entering higher education by 2020. The partnership is made up of City of Wolverhampton College, Dudley College, Halesowen College, Walsall College, Sandwell College and Telford College. It achieves its aims by offering a number of programmes to schools to engage pupils from years 9 to 13 with opportunities in higher education.
It is one of 29 partnerships, spread across the country, financed by the Office for Students, through the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP).
The event was framed by the key question: How can we support young people to fulfil their potential across the Black Country and Telford, and Wrekin? Other speakers included Corin Crane, Chief Executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, Jackie Dunne, Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University and Chair of Aspire to HE and Jo Goodman, Senior Partnership Officer, Aspire to HE and former President of Birmingham City Student Union.
Sir Michael Barber said: “The University of Wolverhampton plays a key role in the aspirations and, indeed, the working careers of the local community. The links that the University has with local businesses is key to social mobility of young people in the community.
“If an ambitious and inspired generation of young people are put in an environment where there are great education facilities and thriving, and successful businesses, you create a generation of young people that can achieve great things which will transform all our lives for the better.”
To date, Aspire to HE has worked with 6,360 pupils in their targeted wards, in 48 schools and six further education colleges. As well as working in partnership to host the first challenge speaker conferences, Aspire to HE is working with Spectra First to deliver a career focused mentoring scheme for years 10, 11 and 12.
Jackie Dunne, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton and Chair of Aspire to HE said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Sir Michael Barber and the panel to the University of Wolverhampton recently to discuss how we can better support the young people in our region to achieve their full potential.
“Hearing the discussions, there is no doubt that we need to continue to work together to widen access to education and address the gaps in educational attainment and confidence building in the Black Country and Telford and Wrekin. Aspire to HE, led by the University of Wolverhampton, is working to ensure a better future for every young person in our region.”