Northumberland College is proactively engaging with the region’s businesses to purposely deliver ‘what employers want’ through its STEM provision.
Following widespread changes in the curriculum to better meet students’ and employers’ needs and supported by major investment in learning resources, Northumberland College has redefined its offering and invested over £14m in industry-focused facilities with more investment to come.
Over £2.5m has been spent on a new, purpose-built STEM centre at its Ashington campus, whilst its Blyth facility has strengthened its dedicated offshore and commercial training support, solely focusing on the renewable energy sector.
This is in addition to delivering hundreds of vocational and academic courses across seven sites regionally including Ashington, Kirkley Hall, Berwick, Hexham and Newcastle.
Stronger commercial links could also see many of the region’s leading businesses potentially endorsing, sponsoring or delivering elements within certain vocational diplomas both on and off-site.
This would aim to bring industry much closer to education and arm Northumberland College students with first-hand experience, knowledge and the correct skills ready for employment.
It could also see local business leaders potentially becoming ‘STEM experts’ in their own respected fields, a concept that would further strengthen the college’s links with industry and key stakeholders, and create a mutually beneficial, three-way working relationship for the College, its students as well as commercial organisations.
Gordon Crombie, Head of the STEM Academy at Northumberland College, said: “We’re now teaching and delivering courses in very different ways to place our students at the heart of industry and integrate the skills that employers are searching for into many of our learning programmes.
“By linking the curriculum to the local business landscape, we can work very much in sync with regional employers, often in diverse, traditional or rural industries, to identify the skills they require both now and in the future, as well as deliver what young people say they need.
“Engagement on all levels is crucial. Having implemented a new approach to learning, we’d like to tell local organisations that we’re very much interested in creating new partnerships and are looking for partner companies to explore new opportunities.
“There are many successful businesses on our doorstep that could benefit from a collaborative approach to skills development, therefore if the College can become a facilitator and bring employers closer to education, we can arm students with the right industry tools to maximise their employability and skills levels.”
Northumberland College’s STEM Academy liaises closely with many enterprise partners to provide apprenticeship and diploma opportunities. This means that academic, vocational and Standards-based courses and apprenticeships can be designed in conjunction with employers and tailored accordingly.
Advanced STEM facilities, especially in the areas of engineering, robotics and digital technologies such as creative media, also support the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Strategic Economic Plan which aims to deliver over one million jobs by 2024.
The plan views STEM qualification take-up amongst young people as a key priority and therefore, the College’s investment in facilities and the latest equipment fully supports this vision.