Engineering project hits the road at South Tyneside College

Students have put themselves in the driving seat to learn key skills and enhance their career prospects through a new North East engineering challenge backed by big business.

They will design and build a manoeuvrable model car and learn how to manufacture it with the help of industry experts in a project to show them the world of work in action.

Those taking part in The Big Car Challenge are from the newly-launched Career College North East (CCNE) and Fyndoune Community School, part of the Durham Federation.

Organised by Skills to Shine, a social enterprise that engages young people in fun project-based learning, they got the show on the road at project partner South Tyneside College, one of two education bodies behind CCNE.

The initiative aims to enhance their knowledge of the manufacturing process and encourage them into careers in industry – key targets of government’s skills improvement programmes.

The first of six weekly sessions began with 22 learners, aged 13 to 15, being split into six teams and tasked with making cars from K’nex, a Lego-type construction toy.

That was followed by instructional visits to North East engineering specialist Ford Aerospace Ltd and butcher MI Dicksons to study their manufacturing processes.

In other sessions they will gain support from business mentors to develop manufacturing systems and hone their presentation and pitching skills to create an exhibition stand, topped with a five minute talk about their product.

The scheme will culminate on Thursday, October 22, when they present their ideas to a panel of business and industry experts, with a trophy for the team with the most time and cost efficient manufacturing process.

Geoff O’Neil, assistant principal at South Tyneside College, said: “This initiative will give these bright and talented learners the knowledge and skills needed to develop a manufacturing process.

“They face a double challenge in which they must prove the speed, distance and durability of their vehicle and also show how it can be manufactured.

“It’s a tough ask, and they also have to showcase their work to business experts to stand a chance of winning the competition.

“But the project has many benefits, including providing them with an excellent understanding of efficiency systems, health and safety, workflow systems, lean processes and quality control.

“This is an exciting project of the type that is needed to help young people understand better some of the career options open to them here in this region.”

Lindsey Dunn, founder and CEO of Whitley Bay-based Skills to Shine, added: “We are delighted to be able to work in partnership with South Tyneside College on this project.

“Manufacturing is a huge area for the North East and it is crucial to raise awareness of the jobs and careers in the industry, and develop the skills needed for these jobs among young people.”

Students from the three CCNE engineering teams will carry out most of the project work in the college’s Advanced Manufacturing department, with those from Fyndoune learning in their school’s workshops.

CCNE is a unique partnership between South Tyneside College and Ofsted-rated ‘outstanding’ school St Wilfrid’s RC Academy in South Shields.

It was launched by Lord Kenneth Baker in January to redress an existing and detrimental skills gap in advanced manufacturing, engineering and computer science.

It offers core academic work and accelerated vocationally-focussed study programmes to 14 to 19-year-olds, the first of whom started their courses this month (NOTE – September).

Delivered by education experts, it provides clear progression routes into higher education, apprenticeships, further education, and work, with learning taking place four days a week at St Wilfrid’s and one at the college.

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 for young people and the future workforce.

Skills to Shine was established in 2010 and works to make learning real, relevant and inspiring by designing and delivering enterprise education projects and introducing young people to the world of work.

It has worked with hundreds of young people through raising funding, corporate sponsorship and trading with educational institutes.

Its projects include The Enterprise Project, in which it works with disengaged 11 to 16-year-olds in South East Northumberland to boost their enterprise skills and introduce them to future options and careers, and a Summer School programme which supports people making the transition from primary to secondary school.

The Durham Federation is an education partnership between Durham Community Business College and Fyndoune Community College.

For more information about CCNE, visit or email [email protected]

For more information on Skills to Shine, call on 0191 328 0577 or visit

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