Lisa Capper MBE, Principal at Stoke on Trent College

You join Stoke on Trent College with a wealth of experience in further education and skills. What were your previous roles?

I have been very lucky in my career and had some fabulous opportunities to work with some incredibly talented teams. My current role is as Principal and Director of Education for Nacro the national social justice charity that has a sizable FE provision and campaigning arm as well as work in youth custody and prison adult education. I have held senior positions in Colleges and in an Academies Trust. From starting out in adult and community learning, I also had the privilege of being recruited in to central government to the Department for Education and Department for Business and led on key aspects of the national adult literacy and numeracy strategy, National Skills Academies, Worldskills and the Commission on Adult Vocational Learning. Working in different parts of the system has been great experience but nothing beats being on the ground in situ with staff and learners.

2. What attracted you to further education as a career?

FE is an underrated and largely unrecognised sector. Where else do you get the opportunity to tangibly change lives and enable individuals from many different backgrounds to achieve their aspiration? It is also a particularly important part of driving the economy as well as being a vital community resource. The diversity of FE makes it an extremely exciting place to be in the world of Education.

3. What do you find most rewarding about working in FE and skills?

It has to be the people and the impact we make each year with individuals and with local communities. I never get tired of hearing the success stories and the case studies of the learner journeys, thanks to the work of our brilliant staff, but if you stop and reflect, this is a transformational and creative business like no other. A recent example was of a young man in care who had fallen into severe addiction and through coming to FE had the hope and support to change path and achieved his maths, English and level 2. He is now serving a level 3 Apprenticeship and has a partner, flat and car. He came back to see us and inspired a whole group of young people to have confidence in their abilities. It’s something you can’t buy.

4. What attracted you to the CEO and Principal job at Stoke on Trent College?

Stoke on Trent needs its own excellent FE college to support the transformation of the City and its towns, and to serve the local young people and adults. And the College deserves the recognition for its work and all that comes with that particular accolade of being a good college. I hope that I can use my skills and experience from elsewhere, build on the current success, and support the team in achieving this recognition. Building on our partnerships and collaborating with others will also be an exciting part of our future.

5. What has been your impression of the College so far?

On my walk around at interview I was very taken with the student feedback on their Covid experience. They explained how the College had helped them with learning but also personal development and wellbeing in what had been a tough year. The examples they gave told a rich story of the College’s values, the commitment and resilience of staff, the care for safeguarding and mental health, and the ingenuity and creativity to make that year count for learners. It’s a significant achievement.

6. What is your vision for Stoke on Trent College?

The College needs to be the ‘go to’ destination for vocational and technical skills for the City – for individuals, employers and commissioners alike. I hope we can show it off more for what it is, to develop its specialisms and seek partnerships that enable us to grow and anticipate and meet local skills’ need. The College’s Strategic Plan ‘Strength to Strength’ sets out how we will develop the future of the College and build on its many current achievements. The green agenda is also vital and one that young people are concerned about, and this may also form part of our contribution to the City and to the skills agenda. At this time, as we come out of Covid Plan B, it is important to support all staff at the College, whatever their role, in their own achievements and wellbeing and to look ahead – all ideas are welcome on what would make a difference to staff.

7. What are you most looking forward to in the new role?

Getting to know the staff and learners and all that we will collectively achieve together. I am also keen to meet the lovely therapy dog Copper, having had one in a previous life called Sherlock.

8. Anything you can share about your life and interests outside of work? 

I am a very sociable person and like nothing better than relaxing with a walk and a coffee with family and friends. I love the theatre, dance and music and would happily spend many hours watching live performance. On a serious note, I am passionate about creating opportunity for all and therefore have spent quite a bit of time supporting organisations with this aim such as the National Deaf Children’s Society who do amazing work changing the world for many young people. I am also an Independent Governor of a University with a strong inclusion agenda.