Building Yorkshire’s workforce

Barnsley College

Santander is supporting an ambitious development programme to provide a 21st century learning environment in Barnsley and help equip local people with the skills required for a modern economy.

In brief

  • Company turnover: £42 million
  • Sector: Education
  • Barnsley College were looking to expand their courses and attract more students by launching an ongoing building and development programme.
  • When approached for funding, Santander talked not only to the college’s management team but also their board of governors and suggested clear solutions to the college’s complex needs. The bank also worked to the college’s unique timescale by accommodating management’s need to consult with the governors. The college received a £7 million loan in 2013 and is now using it to develop new facilities.
  • Santander also ensured a smooth transfer of day-to-day banking facilities, and invested further in the college’s plans for the future by offering to mentor students and take part in the college’s ‘Enterprise Conference’.
  • Thanks to support from Santander, they can now not only create new jobs in the area via their own development work, but also provide the vocational skills required to fulfil job requirements in the local area.
Barnsley College

As the main provider of further education in the local area, Barnsley College plays a vital role in providing people with the skills and training they need to prepare them for the world of work. Driven by an ambitious management team, the college has been growing student numbers and a major building improvement programme is now underway. Santander is not only providing finance to further develop the college’s outstanding learning environment, but also provided support, expert sector knowledge and a non-formulaic approach to funding.

Barnsley is focused on providing training for 16-18 year olds while offering adult education and some higher/degree-level courses in collaboration with the University of Huddersfield. The college also runs programmes aimed at getting the unemployed back to work. With their public sector funding linked directly to intake, a rise in turnover from £27 million to £42 million over five years provides clear evidence of success.

A tactical decision

Against a backdrop of growing student numbers, the college is engaged in an ongoing building and development programme and Santander has provided the debt finance and required support. The college began the process of sourcing bank finance back in 2012, as Director of Finance Laila Miah explains. “We tendered for a loan of £7 million,” she says. “And at the same time we also tendered for our banking facilities.” The decision to couple the loan requirement with day-to-day banking was – as Laila acknowledges – tactical. “We thought that would get us a better rate.”

As Laila recalls, Santander’s approach to the tender immediately impressed the Barnsley College team. “The Santander team – led by Regional Director Chris Sharkey – seemed genuinely inspired by the tertiary education sector and by our plans for the college,” she says. “They had an enthusiasm for the project that we didn’t see in other banks.”

A bank that understood the realities

In particular, the bank didn’t adopt a formulaic approach. Relationship Director Gareth Jones and the Santander team talked to the Barnsley College management, assessed the plans and then tabled proposals that directly addressed the funding requirements of the development programme. “And the bank took the time to present those proposals not just to the management team but also to the governors,” says Laila.

Throughout this process, Santander was at pains to make sure that its proposals were presented clearly to all the stakeholders. “They made it very easy,” adds Laila. “All the technical terms were carefully explained.” Equally important, Santander understood the realities of procuring finance within publicly accountable organisations. The £7 million investment was a major step for Barnsley College and the bank acknowledged that management and governors needed time to make a decision. “There was absolutely no pressure on us to make a decision quickly,” says Laila. “They understood that the decision-making process involved various boards.”

Reducing the risks

Santander also offered to mentor pupils and take part in the college’s ‘enterprise conference’. This positive approach coupled with a deep understanding of the college’s current plans and future ambitions was instrumental in establishing a rapport between the two parties, which resulted in Barnsley College choosing Santander in 2013.

In line with the original tender, Santander provided current and deposit account facilities, Bacs payments, and online banking, plus a £7.4 million rolling credit facility, convertible into a business loan after four years once the funds have been accessed. “This was primarily to fund the development of the college’s construction facilities,” says Gareth.

Santander’s funding fed into a complex programme, which saw the college opening a £45 million teaching building while also redeveloping a plot of land and creating a sixth-form college. The college also plans to develop its science, technology, engineering and math teaching facilities, as well as its Wigfield Farm centre and sports facilities.

A deepening relationship

Earlier this year, the relationship developed even further as Santander agreed to increase the college’s available funding to £14.4 million in order to underpin their development programme. The deal with Santander enabled the college to press ahead, safe in the knowledge that funding had been secured and could be used when required.

Santander is currently providing a full range of banking facilities and their hands-on, personal approach was very much in evidence during the implementation. “When problems arose we simply got in touch with the implementation team and it was all sorted out very smoothly,” says Laila.

The importance of Barnsley College’s forward-looking development plans can’t be understated. “The development of the college will not only create jobs in Barnsley,” says Gareth. “The new facilities also help to ensure that the college can provide the skilled people that are appropriate to the developing economy. We know that a business’ growth will have a positive impact on the local area. It’s why we always strive to create the deepest possible banking relationship. The deeper the relationship, the more positive the impact.”

All lending is subject to status.

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