Craven College is a staunch supporter of Skipton Business Improvement District. Its principal and executive officer Andrew Cropley is a board member. Here, with the help of the president of Craven College Students’ Union Lucy Goodfellow, he tells us why he believes it is vital for the BID to continue.
I came to Skipton and Craven College late last October. I was struck by the very warm welcome and the sense of pride in the town that exudes from everyone I meet who lives, works or studies here. I walk into work whenever I can. Despite it being dark, it always feels safe and the hearty welcome I receive from joggers and dog walkers always cheers me before I reach my office. However, when I was asked to write about the importance of the BID, as it, hopefully, moves into its third term, I felt ill-equipped to do so, given the short time I’ve been here, so I asked Lucy, who has grown up in Skipton and speaks with students across the College frequently, to help me out.
Craven College is a general Further Education College, providing a wide range of technical and vocational courses to over 3,000 people each year. Our main site is on the Aireville Campus on Gargrave Road. We also provision at the Auction Mart Site and at our High Street venue, as well as Aviation Management and Operations from our centre at Leeds Bradford Airport and courses for young people with significant learning difficulties or disabilities from the Evolve centre in Ripon, as well as in Skipton.
Without doubt, a major asset of Craven College is that it is in Skipton, a town with a reputation as being vibrant, successful and safe. Many of our students travel by train or bus into the town and walk to the college through Aireville Park. Being able to do this without worry is really important, not just to our students but to their parents, and enjoying the fresh air in an immaculately maintained space sets them up well for their day. Many of them return, when the weather is good, to enjoy their lunch in the open. As such, the work that the BID does to keep the town safe is critical.
Not just this but seeing that, in these austere times, the town is still able to invest in facilities for young people in Aireville Park sends a really powerful message.
Lucy articulates this perfectly: “As a local myself, I cannot express enough how special Skipton is to me. To live in and to work in. The community spirit is wonderful and having many events available to me is lovely. These events do not just promote Skipton in a positive light, they engage the visitors in the joy that is experienced by locals every day.
“After working in a shop in the centre of Skipton for two years, I can say the customers also understand how special the town is, to be able to live near it and have so much available to them. When we have tourists come in, they always emphasise how lovely their experience has been. I believe that BID is responsible for a lot of this, and has been of the utmost importance in creating the community spirit that we all love. Being an ‘everyone knows everyone’ type community is what makes Skipton a special place.”
The College is here to support our students to take a major step towards a career. To do this effectively, it is vital that local businesses work with managers, teachers and students. Many businesses support our students by offering work placements, whilst others will employ an apprentice, which is a fantastic experience for both parties. The BID opens many of these doors.
Our students benefit from the events and activities supported through the BID, as well as some of the facilities. Along with Michael Myers, one of our Horticultural teachers, our students play an important role in “Skipton in Bloom”, and benefit greatly from the experience.
The all-weather sports pitch has been particularly valuable; it has supported our sports curriculum enabling our students to train and compete whatever the weather and maintain consistency of educational standards, as well as offering potential for extra-curricular opportunities.
We have good links with Craven Arts, supported by the BID, and I hope we can make even more of this going forward. I also hope we can bring the college’s own facilities to the table to the benefit of the wider community. Certainly, our brand-new Equine Centre, which is planned to open this autumn could provide a unique venue to enhance some of the festivals, as well as providing great opportunities for those with an interest in horses.
Lucy believes the BID is vitally important for students across the area, providing them with opportunities to get involved in the community. The events supported and sponsored by the BID are great for the younger people who are either involved in or are visiting the event.
She said: “The Christmas Markets and Skipton Cycle Races are the events that I believe are most popular with students. I feel that it is vital that as a college, we emphasise these events, so our students can fully feel a part of not just of the college community, but of the Skipton community as well.”
Of course, the quality and vibrancy of the town doesn’t just impact on our students. Skipton itself is significant asset when recruiting staff– and a major contributing factor in so few of them leaving us! Some of our team – notably, Joan Murray in Creative Arts , who plays a role in the Puppet Festival – are involved in the various events supported by the BID. Many others have described how much they enjoyed the events leading up to Christmas and are looking forward to this year’s activities.
Lucy says: “It is vitally important that we continue to have a thriving and secure town for future generations that will be growing up within the area. As a community we must ensure that our younger generation feel safe when venturing around, and that their parents also feel safe letting them go out on their own. It is very important that the BID continues to ensure this is the case, enabling the town to be a happy and welcoming environment to experience and spend time in.”
Even in my few weeks as Principal at Craven College, I have drawn great benefit from being a member of the BID Board. Its members really do have the best interests of the town and the community at heart.
I admire their approach, which is to make sure that the town provides a place people want to spend time, whether visitors or locals. Where they always feel safe and frequently feel inspired. Where they come together to have fun, to learn or to admire. Where they relax and enjoy a true sense of community.
It has helped me to build my network in Skipton and to understand the business dynamic; what challenges businesses are facing and how the college might play a part in supporting them. Our sector-based employer forums for Digital Skills, Hospitality & Catering and Land Based skills are all effective in ensuring we support these important parts of the local economy effectively, but the BID board brings an invaluable holistic perspective. It also helps me make sure that the College is integrated into decision-making at the Board but also within the other stakeholders represented around that table, including local authorities and major employers.
It is hard to contemplate the impact of losing the BID. The loss of direct investment and inevitable impact on important events and services would have immediate effect. The multiplying effect of the BID’s support to community groups would inevitably bring a dampening effect, where it would be much less effective for community groups to come together to enhance the lives of the whole town and, therefore, such developments would simply stop – to everyone’s detriment.
If you have a vote and haven’t used it yet, please do so. Vote YES and make sure that the vibrant community is taken even further by BID Skipton for another five years.