A pioneering new initiative to boost apprenticeship provision in key North East job sectors for pupils as young as 14 has opened its doors to its first recruits to tour its facilities.
Career College North East (CCNE) welcomed around 20 youngsters to see at first hand the high-tech training zones within South Tyneside College where they will begin their learning in September.
It was their first full introduction to CCNE, a specialist programme aimed at delivering modern vocational training in advanced manufacturing, engineering and computer science, since they signed up earlier this year.
For at least two years – and with the option of two more – they will spend a day a week at the college learning advanced vocational skills and working closely with employers.
The remainder of their week will be spent following the core academic curriculum at Ofsted-rated ‘outstanding’ school St Wilfrid’s RC College in South Shields.
As part of their tour, which included parents, they heard a specially recorded video welcoming message from Career Colleges founder, Lord Kenneth Baker, a former Home Secretary who launched CCNE in January.
Recruit Andrew Orton, 14, said: “I’ve wanted to learn electrical skills since I was 10 years old and the career college will help me achieve my aims.
“As soon as I heard about it, I knew that it was for me and I really wanted to do it. The facilities are great – I’m really looking forward to starting.”
His mother Stacey Orton added: “Andrew was dead set on being part of Career College North East and knew straight away that he wanted to do it.
“He’s going to be doing electrical training, but the fact is he would have done any area of training just to be involved because he was so determined to do this apprenticeship.
“I’m happy because he gets specialist training at the college and an excellent education at St Wilfrid’s.”
Fellow recruit Steven Appleton, 14, said: “It will give me a set path for the future. It will get me into engineering and give me work experience.
“I want to be an engineer and this is a great way to do that. I can’t wait to start.”
Lyndsey Weatherburn, whose son Jordan, 14, has also signed up, added: “I think the career college is a fantastic idea, it will give him a two-year training start on other people his age.
“He’s been interested in engineering for a long time and this will give him all the help he needs to do the different aspects of engineering that will give him skills for his future.
“There’s hundreds of different jobs in engineering and the skills gap means there’s huge opportunity – it’s a career for life.”
CCNE, a pioneering initiative and the only one of four Career Colleges to be based on a school and college partnership, aims to redress an existing and detrimental skills gap in key sectors.
It offers a blend of core academic work and accelerated vocationally-focussed study programmes, with clear progression routes into higher and further education, apprenticeships and work.
Its programme combines these within a specific industry specialism for those aged from 14 to 19 who possess a clear vision of their future direction.
Supported by a number of regional employers, it is based on the government’s new national education policy that allows Further Education colleges to recruit students at the age of 14 with the aim of increasing choice, opportunity and prospects.
Also present during the youngsters’ college visit was Geoff Ford MBE, chairman of Tyneside-based Ford Aerospace Ltd and Ford Component Manufacturing Ltd, and a strong advocate of apprenticeships, Alison Maynard, Principal of South Tyneside Professional and Vocational College, and Ray Parkinson, head of CCNE.
Ms Maynard said: “It was an excellent and beneficial further introduction to Career College for the students and their parents.
“This is the first time they have been here since they signed up to it and it was important that they could see again the superb facilities. I think it is a very exciting time for all of them.
“I believe the Career College will play a very significant part in helping them achieve a future full of promise and opportunity.”
More information on CCNE is available by calling South Tyneside College on 0191 427 3500 or by visiting www.ccne.co.uk