South Staffordshire College, already committed to a policy of becoming a world-class seat of learning, has achieved another performance landmark through its partnership with premiership side Wolves.
Wolverhampton Wanderers has one of the finest footballing pedigrees in the UK. The club was a founder member of the Football League in 1888 and has a long record of honours, including a number of FA Cup wins and three league titles between 1953 and 1958.
Currently the club is working with South Staffordshire College on an education programme for its apprentice professionals leading to a BTEC National Certificate. Apprentice Professionals with league clubs are taken on with a view to progressing through to their senior professional ranks and some may have come up through the club's junior sides from age 8. About 40% eventually go on to become professionals, some go into semi-professional football alongside other careers or continue with higher and further education into a different career path. At Wolves, however, the success rate is above that average.
Wolves' promotion to the premiership is a welcome return to the top echelon of football and the youngsters in its academy programme include a number of local lads in addition to outstanding young players from other parts of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Most of these have represented their countries at various age groups and one precocious talent has already won a place in the Wolves' first-team squad this season.
South Staffordshire College's teaching group, led by course tutor Mark Deblock, works with the budding footballers at the club's Compton training ground on Wednesdays, and on Mondays and Fridays is based at Molineux itself. The sports performance course has 12 modules ranging from training and nutrition to sports psychology and anatomy.
The world of premiership football is intensely competitive and the students must all keep a log book in which they record progress and milestones for this level 3 vocational course.
Education officer for Wolves is Nick Loftus, who is based at the club's famous Molineux ground and himself played in the Wolves youth side at one time "We chose South Staffordshire College as our partner in this programme because in addition to their reputation, they showed two qualities we always look for in our professionals - tremendous enthusiasm and a determination to succeed" he says.
With the club looking forward to consolidating its premiership status in possibly the most demanding league in the world, expectations of the academy players is high. Ten players, all 16 year old school leavers have been accepted onto the programme this year and both South Staffordshire College and Wolverhampton Wanderers are expecting that teamwork between the two organisations will produce outstanding results.
Mark Robertson, Vice Principal Curriculum and Quality, is proud of the fact that South Staffordshire College is one of just forty colleges across the UK to have been chosen to work with a professional football club, and of a mere handful to do so with a Premiership side.
He comments "This is a tremendous endorsement of our college. To secure this kind of relationship with a premiership club, against competition that is right on their doorstep, shows that South Staffordshire College is itself achieving top flight status."