City College Brighton and Hove is asking old students to share their experience and knowledge with their successors.
The college has started a “City Alumni” group with the aim of inspiring the current generation, mentoring them and possibly providing work experience, jobs and apprenticeships.
The college is working with a specialist organisation called Think Alumni to maximise the potential of those links while highlighting success stories.
Examples include the designer tailor Gresham Blake, Gingerman chef Ben McKellar, Treatment Rooms proprietor Clare Rogers and Crunch Accountants founder Darren Fell.
The start of the alumni project was marked at a business breakfast attended by several former students and members of the local business community at the college’s Gallery restaurant.
Mr Blake, who said that his time as an arts foundation student at the college changed his life, said: “I think it’s important for City College alumni to support this project because it’ll help provide young people with much-needed insights into what it’s like to work for a company or run their own business.
“There’s a lot of raw talent at the college that alumni will be in a position to help and, in return, can provide them with fresh ideas too.
“I remember getting help from more experienced people when I first started out and I think there’s a lot of potential for the college to tap into with this project because people who run their own businesses don’t forget where they came from and often want to put something back.”
Former City College plumbing apprentice Sam Bishop, 25, who started his own plumbing business at just 19 and now employs 12 staff, said: “I’m really happy to support this project because I appreciate what the college did for me during my apprenticeship and I’ll be working with them to find a new apprentice for my company this year.
“I think City Alumni has got the capacity to provide inspiration and open doors for a lot of young people.”
Assistant principal Rebecca Conroy said that the first students at what has become City College were art students taught in the kitchens of the Royal Pavilion in 1858.
The college – or parts of it – have been known at various times as Brighton Municipal College, Brighton Technical College and Brighton College of Technology.
She said: “The college has been in existence for 156 years and has contributed to the lives of around 250,000 people during that time – almost the equivalent of Brighton and Hove’s current population.
“We can’t wait to find out about our former students’ stories and link a new community together as well as building support networks for our current students.
“We’re really excited about this project and there was a real buzz at our launch event.”
Donna Keenan, managing director of City Business Skills at the college, said: “The launch of City Alumni is a really exciting new development for the college.
“We’ve always known that there are so many local people who have used the skills they gained at City College to forge successful careers but, until now, this has remained a largely untapped resource.
“We’re now hoping that our alumni links will go from strength to strength in ways that will be of benefit to alumni and current students alike.”
Kieron White, chief executive of Think Alumni, said: “There’s something special at Brighton – and Brighton is going to lead the way in what other colleges are going to do.”
Mr White said that the college had thousands of satisfied customers many of whom would want to put something back.
He said that universities traditionally kept contact with alumni to ask for money, in part because most left the town or city where they had studied once they had graduated.
But most City College students lived and worked in Brighton and Hove and the surrounding area.
More details about the City Alumni project can be found on its website www.alumni.ccb.ac.uk.
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