Northumberland College is on track to have its third successive year of improved achievement rates across the majority of areas as a result of a major strategic overhaul to focus more heavily on core academic subjects at FE and HE level, increase industry-driven learning opportunities and strengthen commercial partnerships with local employers.

The College has recorded an impressive 8% rise in apprenticeship achievement rates, a 4% increase in classroom learning and a staggering 23% improvement in the number of students gaining higher education qualifications during the 2018-19 academic year.

This is in addition to being awarded Silver by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) for high quality teaching on its Higher Education provision at a time when many universities achieve bronze or below. Additionally, the College has, once again, being awarded the Matrix Standard, a high profile, nationally-recognised quality award yet to be achieved by the majority of colleges across the country, for providing excellent, wide-ranging student support, pastoral guidance, mentoring and careers advice.

The increases have also included a boost in the number of older students studying apprenticeships through employer-designed programmes, as well as more mature students enrolling on HE courses to retrain, improve their knowledge and widen their career prospects.

One example is AkzoNobel employee, Stephen Cook (32), who was first to enrol on the company’s bespoke Maintenance and Operations Engineering Technician Apprenticeship Standard, designed specifically by the College’s business development team. They worked in collaboration with the global paint manufacturer to create a training scheme that will support future production at its Ashington site and deliver key maintenance and engineering skills for the state-of-the-art facility.

AkzoNobel was also one of 15 local companies working closely with Northumberland College who attended its recent Employer and Apprenticeship Recognition Celebration Awards, held to mark National Apprenticeship Week 2019. Designed to acknowledge the commitment of those studying at or partnering the College to deliver apprenticeships, organisations including George Smith Furniture, Bernicia Group, Newcastle University, Gateshead Council and Eminent Engineering, were all commended for their ongoing support and advocacy of apprenticeship development in the workplace.

Jeff Hope, head of manufacturing unit at AkzoNobel Ashington added, “The site was custom designed from the ground up, incorporating pioneering technologies with high levels of automation to outperform the competition in every way. Because of this, we’ve always placed strong emphasis on training so that employees have the niche skills to operate the advanced machinery proficiently.

“We always wanted to introduce an apprenticeship scheme with a training provider that could match our specific needs. By collaborating with Northumberland College, we’ve been able to develop a bespoke programme which addresses our skills gaps and ensures the future of the plant, whilst also strengthening the link to our local College. Their support in developing the apprenticeship has been outstanding.”

Ian Clinton, CEO and Principal of Northumberland College added, “We are delighted with our recent successes as a College and this is due to the fantastic teaching, support and learning opportunities we continue to provide for our students.

“By building strong working partnerships with regional employers and delivering the provision that is required by local industry and our communities, we have ensured our students are not only well equipped with the right qualifications and skills needed to be ‘work ready’, but also possess the correct personal and social skills to enable them to achieve their full potential.”

Northumberland College students have also achieved huge success representing the organisation in vocational-led competitions including, amongst others, The Association of Hairdressers and Therapists (AHT). Four students from the College’s Ashington campus were successful in UK-wide finals, with Natalia Park and Adam Lacy winning their heats, and Callum Afendoulis and Katie Shields being named runners-up.

Furthermore, the number of students attending careers fayres and open day events at Kirkley Hall and Ashington campuses has risen significantly, with over 90% rating them as excellent or good.

Lynn Tomkins, Chair of Governors said, “This is a College that people want to come to and by providing the highest standards of teaching expertise, industry-focused facilities and high standards of student support, we can deliver the very best opportunities and effectively serve the needs of employers, business partners and our local communities.”