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Colleges merge to form ‘RNN Group’

photo 1 -NNC groupNorth Notts College, based in Worksop, and Rotherham College (of Arts and Technology, known in the past as ‘RCAT’) completed a merger on 1st February 2016 to create a new organisation called the RNN Group (Rotherham and North Notts Group), which will have a turnover in excess of £45m in 2015/16. It will retain its existing campuses at Rotherham Town Centre, Dinnington and Worksop and their existing names.

The merger was first conceived in autumn 2014 by Gill Alton, Principal and CEO at Rotherham College, and John Connolly, Principal  & CEO at North Notts College. The FE recruitment areas of the two colleges sit next to each other, but any overlap is limited, possibly because both are in separate counties (South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire). The organisation’s two main campuses are 16 miles apart.

A Structure and Prospects Appraisal (SPA) was carried out in spring 2015, followed by a due diligence exercise and the Boards of the two colleges formally approved that the merger would be progressed in July, with North Notts College electing to dissolve under the ‘type B’ merger arrangement. A prospectus was issued in August 2015, opening a consultation which closed in November. Following this, permission to change the name of the organisation to RNN Group was sought and received.

John Connolly will be Chief Executive of RNN Group, while Gill Alton will take up the reins as Chief Executive at the Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education in late March.

A major focus for the merged RNN organisation is to create enough scale to increase its responsiveness and offer to employers in Rotherham, Bassetlaw and more widely across the Sheffield City Region (SCR) and the D2N2 (Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire) Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), and beyond. The college is perhaps rare in operating with two separate LEPs. This need has been heightened by the upcoming apprenticeship levy on employers, and the recognised need to fill skills gaps and increase higher level skills training.

RNN Group Chief Executive, John Connolly, said:

“Business success and economic growth are vital to our region. RNN Group will play a key role supporting employers through providing apprenticeships, higher-level skills and training solutions, enabling our regional workforce to develop into the roles organisations need to be able to grow and succeed.”

Already one of the largest providers of apprenticeships in the SCR, one of the first steps the organisation has taken is to pool the employer-facing sales and liaison staff from both colleges into a central team operating under the banner of ‘RNN Training’.

RNN Deputy Principal, Phil Sayles said:

“RNN Training has been created as a clear point of contact for employers who need bespoke or accredited training in their business, or who want to create apprenticeships. We want to be the first name employers in our area think of for these services.”

The RNN Group will also help employers through providing more higher-skill and higher education courses in Worksop and Rotherham, and at the Retford Post-16 Centre, in which it is a partner, adding to the thousand-plus enrolments at level 4 or above the organisation already has.

The RNN Group is also at the point of investing in a new higher education and skills centre in Rotherham, a development supported by over 200 local businesses, the local council and other bodies, with part-funding from the SCR LEP applied for.

The RNN Group also comprises a number of separate limited companies.

National Fluid Power Centre (NFPC) Ltd. delivers high-end training in the fields of pneumatics, hydraulics and controls to over 300 companies in the UK and abroad. The company receives strong support and guidance from a 59-strong advisory Board of major sector players.

Create Skills Ltd. operate from a base in Manvers, Rotherham, covering the north and midlands, offering apprenticeships, bespoke and accredited training in the education, business support and management sectors.

Aston Recruitment and Training Ltd. is based in Northamptonshire and offer apprenticeships and workforce development nationally with specialisms which include engineering, marketing, leadership, management and hairdressing.

Charnwood Training Ltd. has its head office in Mansfield and delivers apprenticeships and bespoke training in the hospitality and licensed sectors across the UK.

Chief Executive, John Connolly, concludes:

“By 2024, it is estimated that up to 40% of the existing workforce in our regions might have moved on or retired, and a big proportion of jobs growth until that date will also require higher level skills. RNN Group will move to provide clear progression pathways for adults currently in their early 20s, as well as the 16-18s, from all parts of society, to keep improving their skills and move into jobs that will be productive for them and the economy.”

“Our merged organisation will give us greater resilience and greater scope to invest and provide the training and courses employers, individuals and our region need. We will have greater influence, bringing benefits for local people, businesses and our communities.”