Bedford College

Integrating NetAcad into the Next Generation of Technical Qualifications

Bedford College

Bedford College is a higher and further education college in Bedford, Bedfordshire. Offering a variety of academic and vocational qualifications, apprenticeships, access to higher education courses, higher education qualifications and foundation education programmes.

Size: 260+ learners in IT courses





NetAcad Courses





The Bedford College Group proudly offer a range of high-quality Further and Higher-Education courses

As the education system and curriculum evolve, so do the students that the College supports. Currently, Bedford College has over 260 active students across its IT-related courses. With new courses becoming available, such as T-Levels and part-time education offerings, student numbers are starting to increase faster and faster.

Combining Education and the Industry 

In 2020, the government introduced the new T-Levels qualification,  a career-focused qualification for 16-19 year olds. They are equivalent to three A-Levels and have been designed with employers from the sector. These new, technical-based qualifications are focused on meeting the needs of the industry.


Mark Downing discusses how invaluable the new T-Levels are to Students: “Students are required to complete 70 hours of industry-related courses (per year) and 315 hours of industry placements. This shows employers that students understand the technologies and have gone above and beyond what a regular qualification would offer.”  

“Some people think that it's a young person’s game but it isn't. Maybe 20-30 years ago that might have been true, given that technology is here to stay, and because it's so accessible, it's part of our everyday lives, there's no escaping it. Take the opportunities to learn how it all works.”

Mark Downing, IT Course Manager and lecturer at Bedford College

Introduction of Industry Technology

“One of the biggest challenges, as with many public schools, is funding. Having a free resource like the Cisco Networking Academy has been invaluable in supporting our educators and ensuring the high-quality delivery of our courses. Increasing learner's 2023-2024 T-Level options to include Digital Production, Design and Development.


Additionally, we were very lucky to have received some funding to upgrade our IT equipment in order to support our students with their learning”, explains Mark Downing, IT Course Manager and lecturer. "Having skills, knowledge and certifications can give students a competitive edge and help them stand out from the crowd". 

The Cisco Networking Academy as a Companion to T-levels

With over 20 years of experience delivering Cisco’s Networking Academy courses, the team were keen to find a fit with the new T-Levels qualifications. From IT Essentials to CCNA, all teaching is done in person in order to give students the best learning environment, whether they are studying labs or theoretical knowledge.


Students have differing levels of knowledge and skills and to combat this challenge, Bedford College offers dedicated classes to provide more effective individual support. The classes are 90 minutes long allowing students to complete assignments, studies, labs, or other Cisco Networking Academy platform activities. 

 “With the knowledge,  skills & practical understanding gained from the NetAcad courses & the  T-levels, I was able to start a small business creating websites. From there I developed my skills further and improved my soft skills through working with clients, leading to a development in my personal network. Thanks to my network, placements, and ability I had the opportunity to compete in the WorldSkills national Website development competition.”

James McKay, Ex-Student and current Software Developer Apprentice at Nissan

Connecting Students with Job Opportunities 

With an ever-increasing demand for IT skills, preparing students for a variety of IT roles is essential. With an ever-increasing demand for IT skills, preparing students for a variety of IT roles is essential. From 2021 to 2022 the UK saw over 36,000 digital and IT Apprentices start their Early-In-Career journey, with apprenticeship opportunities growing 13% annually it provides the perfect landing space for T-Level students.


One T-Levels student, James McKay, discussed how he had been offered a Level 4 apprenticeship in a Software Development-focused role. James said: “I was not the best programmer who applied. However, the ability to talk about my practical experience and having certifications to support it helped me through the interview stages and land the position.”


Other students have gone into Aerospace, Automotive, Government, Service Providers, and Service Management organisations and some have even started their own businesses.