Education Minister Michelle Donelan was in the region recently to visit Gateshead College to see how they are preparing for the introduction of new qualifications called T Levels.

Described as the biggest change in education in 70 years, T Levels are a brand new, two-year technical qualification. They bring classroom learning and an extended industry placement together on a course designed with businesses and employers. Ideal for those who have finished GCSEs, students will spend 80% of their time in the classroom and 20% on an industry placement.

As an Ofsted outstanding provider with a long-standing track record of delivering high quality vocational and technical training, Gateshead College is one of the first education providers to be chosen to deliver these new qualifications.

On the visit, Ms Donelan met students who are using technology to prepare for work. Students working towards a career in nursey education demonstrated how they are learning about the development of a foetus using their mobile phones and a virtual reality app. They explained that, by using the technology, they are more engaged with the subject and will retain the information due to the visual nature of the experience.

Digital tech students also showcased the work that they have been doing in software engineering, robotics and augmented reality. The students explained how they are using the latest industry languages and software to work on real projects set by employers ensuring their skills are aligned to what employers want.

Education Minister Michelle Donelan said “It was great to visit Gateshead College and hear about the amazing work they are doing to help people of all ages and backgrounds to get the skills they need to progress and have rewarding careers. Their entire college ethos is built around ensuring that their students are work ready and get work or pursue further education.

“I met inspiring students and alumni including one inspirational young man who has gone full circle and is taking on students for industry placements in his own business.

“It was wonderful to hear the excitement that they have about T Levels and how they will take students to the next level.”

The T Levels will include an extended industry placement to help develop the skills employers need. Aligned to apprenticeship standards they offer a clear line of sight to higher and degree apprenticeships as well as continued study at university or straight into work.

Employer partners Alex Henderson of NewGen and Shona Tong of Gateshead Council attended the visit and explained to Ms Donelan how they’re contributing to the success of the new curriculum.

Alex said: “Whilst studying TV and Film at Gateshead College, I set up my own creative agency business. Since leaving, the college has been really supportive, inviting me to speak at business events and guiding me in how to make my business even more successful. I’m now really excited to be able to help the next generation of talent. I’ve employed one former student and I’m launching the NewGen Academy which will offer industry placements as part of the new T Levels.”

Ms Donelan also met Shona Tong from Gateshead Council who last year offered 18 placements, with two students securing jobs as a result and so far this year has taken 25 students into their Adult Social Care and Children and Young People’s Services.

Principal and Chief Executive of Gateshead College Judith Doyle said: “For a long time we’ve developed our curriculum in partnership with employers to make sure our students leave us with the skills, knowledge and behaviours employers want and the best possible chance of securing a job. With the introduction of the new T Levels in education and digital, we’re able to extend this even further, widening our network of business contacts and providing a learning experience that allows students to immerse themselves in their chosen industry.”