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Business & Economy

Department for Education backs Sunderland College

North East students are set to benefit from government backed investment that will place Sunderland College at the forefront of technical skills training in the region.

In 2016 the college opened its £30 million flagship technical City Campus at Park Lane, Sunderland, equipped with state-of-the-art employer-designed facilities in a number of skills priority areas such as construction, mechanical and electrical engineering, manufacturing and automotive.

To ensure Sunderland College can continue to play a leading role in the region’s rapidly evolving technological advancements, college leaders have secured £1.3 million from the Department for Education’s T Level Capital Fund to drive further enhancements.

Investment will see the campus’ technical training environments expanded to support skills demands within the engineering, manufacturing, and automotive industries, including workforce priorities arising from automation, electrification and digitisation.

At the heart of the Department for Education’s investment will be Sunderland College’s new employer designed T Levels in Engineering, Manufacturing and Business Management due to launch in September 2022.

The funding will see the creation of several exciting new additions to the college’s inspiring training resources including:

·       A Hybrid Automotive facility – allowing students to develop their skills in world class automotive workshops designed to focus on the next wave of electromobility, autonomous driving and 4.0 skill sets crucial for industry.  The space will accommodate electric vehicle charging stations, clean technical rooms and an overall environment designed to match modern industry.

·       An Automation Innovation training suite – where students will gain training and development in automation, robotics and cobotics.

·       The inclusion of a new Digital Engineering Hub – world class immersive studios, allowing students to be safely taught in immersive digitally simulated virtual engineering and manufacturing environments.

·       A Business Management zone – informed by some of the world’s best business school designs and featuring modern areas for individual learning, collaborative digital working spaces, business interaction and the development of leadership, management, data analysis and entrepreneurial skills for working in a broad range of industries.

Following recent announcements by Nissan regarding major expansion of electric vehicle production at its car plant in Sunderland creating 1,650 new jobs and Envision’s new Gigafactory powering up to 100,000 electric vehicles a year, creating 750 new jobs and securing 300 existing roles, the Department for Education’s investment into Sunderland College could not have come at a better time.

Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East, of which Sunderland College is a part, said: “The North East is already a leader in UK engineering, advanced manufacturing and automotive industries. But as Sunderland and our region continues to strengthen as a centre of excellence in power electronics, machines and digital manufacturing processes, we intend for our college to be at the forefront of the skills revolution needed, sustainable strategy, and importantly, innovative cross sector collaboration.

“I am thrilled with today’s announcements and would like to sincerely thank the Department for Education and our valued business and industry partners for backing this transformative T Level bid.”

Patrick Melia, Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “Recent investments in the Northeast and particularly Sunderland, will place our city at the centre of electric vehicle production in Europe, creating jobs, prosperity and supporting our low carbon aspirations.

“I am delighted to hear of this ambitious investment at Sunderland College’s City Campus, including the expansion of world class training facilities in what is already an inspirational technical learning environment. These new specialist facilities are critical to the acceleration of a talented and technically skilled pipeline, and importantly reflect our collective ambitions to create excellent opportunities for our residents as Sunderland shapes the future of advanced manufacturing on a global level.”

T Levels are high-quality technical alternatives to A-Levels, combining classroom theory, practical learning and an industry placement to give students the skills they need to secure a great career and that will provide employers with the skilled workforce they need.

So far, the government has invested over £100 million through the T Level Capital Fund to support post-16 providers in making sure young people studying T Level qualifications have access to world class facilities and equipment.

Earlier this year, Sunderland College was awarded over £3 million to completely refurbish the 1950s Bede building to create a new Digital Innovation and Skills Hub including a sophisticated, 360-degree immersive visualisation dome that will train students in world-class virtual reality environments.

The developments will also include an amphitheatre-style seated area, innovation suites and flexible spaces for students studying T Levels such as Digital and Health.

As well as being an innovative centre for T Level training, the college will open a small sensory environment within the centre where students will gain real work experience supporting the delivery of digitally informed immersive therapies for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).