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Business & Economy

College partners with Microsoft to tackle digital poverty in Middlesbrough

A leading stem college is on a mission to tackle digital poverty in the region, by offering brand new laptops to every new-full time student from September.

From the start of the new term, Middlesbrough College will give free Microsoft Surface devices to around 4,500 new starters on full-time courses.

The scheme, MC Click, will allow learners to use their device on campus and at home throughout their studies, including during the holidays. Upon completion of their course, or after two years of full-time study, students be given the device to keep, allowing them to continue to use it to apply for jobs and start their careers.

Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive of Middlesbrough College, said: “Like most schools and colleges, the COVID-19 pandemic forced our students to learn remotely. However, some simply didn’t have the technology to do that.

“It highlighted the issue of digital inequality and we ended up distributing 700 laptops directly to students to ensure they could keep learning at home throughout the pandemic.

“Long-term, we must level the playing field to ensure every young person has an equal opportunity at our College. Our investment in MC Click is a positive step in the right direction and we look forward to welcoming our new students this September.”

When 18-year-old Reece Micklewright found that she needed extra support to reach her potential, MC Click ensured she was equipped with the tools and skills to succeed.

She said: “My teachers here at the College recognised that I was struggling a little with the fast pace of A Level learning, so being able to get a laptop through MC Click was really important in helping me succeed.”

As a result, Reece achieved three Cs at A Level, and is now planning to study veterinary physiotherapy at university.

The scheme forms part of the College’s five-year digital transformation strategy, which also includes online safety, improving business productivity through using Microsoft 365 and enhancing learning in the classroom to help students become “true digital citizens”.

As part of its plan, Middlesbrough College is looking to work with local broadband providers to ensure that students who do not have WiFi at home are provided with a broadband connection, free of charge.

Zoe added: “We need a solid digital foundation, which includes having staff with the right skills, hardware that’s easy to use and secure, and systems that talk to each other via the cloud. By having those three things in place, we will achieve our goals.

“We spoke to our teachers and students about the tools they wanted to use, and they loved using Microsoft Teams. They also wanted a device that was reliable and had a long battery life, so that triggered the move to Surface.

“We needed a complete platform that matches our ambitions and Microsoft provides that.”

Earlier this year, Middlesbrough College launched its multi-million-pound, state-of-the-art Digital Centre, home to industry-leading programming suites, cyber labs, video editing suites, a games design suite and a full TV and film studio.

At the opening, tech expert and former Microsoft chief envisioning officer Dave Coplin said that “our relationship with technology will be one of the defining factors in the success of all of our lives”.

He added: “The College’s new Digital Centre has been built around that principle, offering a diverse range of incredible resources and skillsets to empower students to harness the opportunity that new technologies have to offer and to do so in a way that provides a direct pathway to employment and business value.”

MC Click builds on those principles by creating an inclusive learning environment for all College students.

For more information on 2022 enrolment, visit: