Mean on Monday: Retirement of Gloucestershire College head who put county on the map
ONE of the issues in Gloucestershire, to my mind, is that there are lot of people who do a lot of talking. But you can count the doers on a couple of hands.
One of those definite doers is Greg Smith, who announced this weekend that he is retiring as principal and chief executive of Gloucestershire College which has experienced a complete renaissance since he took over the helm 16 years ago.
The old Gloscat, as it was known, was verging on bankruptcy when he took on the job.
Since then, two new campuses have been built in Gloucester and Cheltenham and his team has now been breathing new life into the Forest of Dean College, which had also been teetering on bankruptcy.
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Yes, Greg or Dr Greg Smith to give him his proper title, is a doer. He is a tough Brummie, who came from a council estate in Sutton Coldfield.
In 1997 when he arrived at Gloscat, he remembers it being dubbed "Doscat". Such was its reputation.
The buildings were falling down. He had to make 250 staff redundant and for the first few years, he had to decide which bills would be paid every week.
"I can remember it was very painful," he told me, "I was a hated figure in Gloucestershire."
What about the legacy he leaves on retiring next August?
"I think it is the absolute passion for students and their success.
"The college is about changing students' lives. We are about giving young people the chance of a job and the chance of actually going to university.
"Over the next five or 10 years, I think you will see many more routes where students will not go off to stay three years at a university.
"Many more will study at their local further education colleges, who will work more closely with universities as we are doing now with the University of Gloucestershire."
As I say, he is a doer. He has led a team who, with ourselves here at The Citizen and Gloucestershire Echo, have trumpeted the cause of apprenticeships over the last few years.
It is something I am immensely proud of and I know Greg is too.
"I am so proud of what we have achieved in our encouragement of apprenticeships at the college," he said.
"As a result, Gloucestershire has now become a national leader on apprenticeships which is quite remarkable.
"Our main role is not about community education any more. It is about our worth to skills development in the county.
"I think the next big thing will be higher apprenticeships. Why not have a higher apprenticeship and give it the status of a degree as they do in America?
"I would never take the credit for what has gone on here. I am surrounded by people who have the same focus on students – a focus on the outside world and a focus on getting better and moving towards excellence."
Further education in Gloucestershire owes a lot to Greg Smith, who on his retirement in the county, will find many people beating a path to his door.
Leaders like him do not grow on trees. He is a real doer.