Posted on 20 February 2024

Leeds College of Building and leading technology firm Collsys have joined forces to pioneer a new software package for the further education sector.

The Collsys ‘Academic Suite’ is designed to track knowledge, skills, and behaviours across all academic disciplines. It combines with their ‘Employability Suite’ to provide a comprehensive single platform solution including work placement, enrichment, apprenticeships, and careers.

The project began when Leeds College of Building reviewed its existing systems post-pandemic and asked for staff feedback. Increasingly complex requirements and software that was no longer fit for purpose meant that investing in a new college-wide system became a priority.

Steve Connell, Assistant Principal at Leeds College of Building, said:

“As a busy further education college delivering a host of construction specialisms, we needed software that could not only track student work placements and enrichment, but also monitor progress, hold Individual Learning Plans (ILPs), link well with maths, English and support areas, hold student reviews and exam results and monitor attendance and punctuality.

“However, little is available to the FE sector which can manage data for both employer placements and student progress, and which is also user-friendly. Market leaders tend to offer solutions for one or the other but not together and can also be difficult to retrieve the correct information. We needed software that would be a one-stop-shop and present data quickly and consistently.

“Our old systems were labour intensive and lead to silos or pockets of good practice, so I began talking with one of our existing software suppliers, Collsys. Their CEO, Brian Varley, was keen to explore this further and use expertise in his team to expand existing Collsys software parameters.”

The College Work Based Learning and Employer Engagement teams already used Collsys modules for tracking work placements, enrichment, and employer engagement data. The aim was to extend this to a bespoke management platform used by all Leeds College of Building staff.

Brian Varley, CEO Collsys, said:

“This project has been a great opportunity to enhance our existing Employability Suite offering. Together with Leeds College of Building, we designed the Academic Suite to be easy to use with additional options for tracking ‘Knowledge Skills and Behaviours’ of vocational courses. This means staff can monitor if students are on track at any point in the year and put in earlier interventions.

“We also included a joint training plan and review system that is not readily available on the market, given products are often not specifically designed with colleges in mind. A benefit of our system is that because we offer our Employability Suite alongside the Academic Suite, all data is in one place. Tutors can easily look at all aspects of a student’s data without having to switch between systems for reports.”

Over the last 12 months, a joint project team spent time researching, developing, designing, testing, and eventually rolling out the Academic Suite project. The new system is now live at Leeds College of Building and manages all aspects of students’ learning.

Users can drill down to faculty, departmental, course, or individual student level data. Staff can quickly access vital data, generate reports, and view insights using a RAG (Red, Amber, Green) rating to quickly identify at-risk students, monitor progress, and tailor interventions.

Adam Sharpe, system super-user and Leeds College of Building carpentry and Joinery lecturer, said:

“The new system has great potential. The fact that Collsys has been made to suit our needs as a college is really pleasing, as this means that people like me and others within our organisation can make this new system the best it can be. Working with the Collsys team has been a pleasure; they have been so responsive when we have had technical issues and very patient when delivering training.”

Work is now underway on the next phase of development. The project team has hosted drop-in staff training sessions, created champions and super users, and helped with data transfer to the new system. Plans also include a portal and mobile app to allow employers, parents and carers to monitor a student’s attendance, progress, results, and staff feedback.

Steve concluded:

“This was an ambitious project, but it paid off. We’ve never had this level of data before! It’s fantastic to have everything in one place and quickly access data in real-time. It’s very user-friendly and is a much more efficient use of precious staff time. This bespoke platform will be crucial for external assessors moving forward as it ties together all aspects of apprenticeships and study programmes. Thanks to Collsys for listening to our needs and building a bespoke system for us.”

Visit to find out more about Collsys Academic and Employability Suites or email to learn how Collsys can support other Further Education providers.