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Wes Johnson takes charge at Myerscough College and University Centre

Friday 1 Sep 2023

Wes Johnson has taken over the role of Chief Executive and Principal at Myerscough College and University Centre.

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Wes moves to Myerscough having undertaken the same role at Lancaster and Morecambe College, takes over from Alison Robinson, retired last month after more than five years at the helm.

Wes began work today (September 1), welcoming and briefing staff.

Wes said: ‘’It is an honour and a privilege to be appointed as the next Chief Executive & Principal of Myerscough College.
‘’As a passionate advocate for colleges, the North-West and specialist land-based education the opportunity to lead the next chapter of Myerscough’s success is hugely exciting.
‘’Playing a role in Myerscough’s future not only strengthens my passion for agriculture, and land-based education, but also embraces a heartfelt family connection as my wife and two sons all hugely benefitted as former students of the College.
‘’I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Lancaster & Morecambe College, a very special college at the heart of its community. I’m sure the College will continue to thrive and maximise the great opportunities ahead, especially Eden Project Morecambe, a project very close to my heart.
‘’As an advocate for technical and professional education I look forward to continuing in my role as Chair of The Lancashire Colleges, bringing together all twelve of Lancashire’s fantastic colleges.’’

Wes has more than 25 years of experience in education, with many of those as a senior leader in both general and specialist further and higher education institutions across the north of England.

Previous roles have seen Wes lead and deliver education in many settings, from serving rural populations in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Northumberland to disadvantaged urban communities in areas of Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Leeds and Bradford.

As a former teacher trainer and curriculum specialist, Wes has a passion for high impact teaching and learning, underpinning the positive influence colleges have in raising aspiration, life chances and the economic wellbeing of individuals, businesses and wider communities.

After leaving school, Wes set up his own countryside management contracting business working in agriculture, fencing and forestry, before gaining a HND in Rural Land Management with Distinction at Brackenhurst College, near Nottingham.

He then moved into teaching, where he took up a position at North Lindsey College, and then as teaching and learning manager at Craven College in 2004, where he was promoted to Assistant Principal, then Vice Principal, and Acting Principal.

He became Campus Principal at Newton Rigg College, Penrith, in 2012, a position which was expanded to include Askham Bryan’s centres in the North-East.

Wes took charge of Lancaster and Morecambe College in April 2017.

Under his leadership, Wes steered the college from an Ofsted rating of ‘requires improvement’ to overall ‘good’ within two years, where inspectors praised a ‘clear vision for the College’ and how they had ‘reshaped many elements of the curriculum offer’ to be more work-focused.

Wes also became a Director of Lancaster & District Chamber of Commerce in 2018, and is Chair of The Lancashire Colleges organisation.

Wes continued to set out his vision for Myerscough in the months and years ahead.

‘’I have a real personal connection (to the sectors that Myerscough teaches). My background is from a farming family, working in my early years with agriculture, countryside management and forestry,’’ he said.
‘’I’ve gradually moved further north over the years and I’ve now lived in the area for the past 19 years.
‘’So this is my passion, on both a personal and professional level. I live on a little hill farm on the Forest of Bowland, and that’s a big part of my wellbeing strategy in terms of escaping the trials and tribulations of being in charge.
‘’That’s very important to me, those land-based careers in the very broadest sense. It’s a big part of my family heritage. My wife was a student at Myerscough, and both of my sons have been Myerscough sportsturf apprentices.
‘’I want to build on the fantastic work that Alison Robinson has done, with two guiding principles.
‘’Firstly, everything we do will be employer led. So in terms of the world we live in at the moment, I believe that employers should play a lead role in shaping the curriculum. This means learners emerge with the knowledge, skills and behaviours that the industry needs now and in the future.
‘’Also, we want all members of our community to be economically active. So, our curriculum has to have multiple stepping on and stepping off points, just to make sure that there aren’t those barriers in place for those people who could be fantastic in their chosen field, but perhaps don’t have the pre-requisites, or maybe they have skills in another area and wish to retrain.
‘’We want to remove those barriers to entry, regardless of a person's starting point.
‘’I engage with employers in our sectors on a regular basis and I use my own personal experience. For example, my son has just completed a Myerscough apprenticeship, and from a parental point of view I’ve seen first-hand just what a good choice it was for him, as well as the absolute buy in from the employer.
‘’A big part of being Chief Executive and Principal for me is being accountable to industry. It’s my job to ensure that our product is fit for purpose. We will have the conversations, and they will lead to actions.
‘’What we also want from employers is the ability to tap into their expertise to deliver extra opportunities to students, maybe utilising resources that the college may not have, and that access to real work experience.
‘’Post pandemic, we need to support our learners into the real world of work. In Lancashire, this has been identified as part of the Local Skills Improvement Plan, which has just been published.
‘’By working together, we can say to all learners, ‘this is a wonderful career, and this is accessible to you’.
‘’We want to produce work ready students, and that’s not just about handing out qualifications.’’

Allan Foster, Chair of the Myerscough Corporation, added: "We are delighted to have recruited Wes Johnson, an outstanding college leader to build on the considerable achievements of the departing Chief Executive & Principal, Alison Robinson.

‘’Wes is an inspirational educator who completely shares Myerscough's mission of delivering innovative, accessible and inclusive opportunities to learners and employers in the land-based, science, engineering and sporting sectors.

‘’His experience as Principal at Lancaster & Morecambe College and in the land-based sector at Newton Rigg and Craven Colleges is an ideal background from which to lead Myerscough in its ambitious future. He has also made a major contribution to Lancashire-wide further and higher education as Chair of the Lancashire Colleges group.

‘’Welcome Wes!"