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Business & Economy

Education Partnership North East hosts online conference on ‘The College of the Future’

The Independent Commission on The College of the Future held a virtual roundtable conference at Sunderland College attended by leading figures from the North East’s further education sector.

The commission aims to set out a new vision for colleges in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and will publish a final report with recommendations in Autumn 2020.

The roundtable took places on August 26 over Zoom and was chaired by Education Partnership North East chief executive Ellen Thinnesen.

Its focussed what colleges of the future will look like and assessed their vital role in the UK’s recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.

The commission gained key insights on the needs of the North East to inform its inquiry.

Roundtable attendees heard how Education Partnership North East’s group of colleges are engaged in long-term partnership building to provide learner-focused qualifications to meet employers’ needs.

Ellen Thinnesen, said: “We were delighted to host the Commission’s roundtable and welcome so many of our key partners who all recognise the crucial role all college’s play in the North East.

“The event helped renew and reaffirm colleges as central to ‘people, productivity and place’ and to meet long term challenges, from demographic change and the climate crisis, to technological revolution, and the changing demands of the labour market.

“With a significant need to level up the North East, it was a great opportunity for our region to challenge and contribute to the Commission and talk technical skills, upskilling and reskilling, and the economy.”

The roundtable included sector leaders such as Rob Lawson, Education Partnership North East chair of governors; James Ramsbotham, North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive; Patrick Melia, Sunderland City Council chief executive; Michelle Rainbow, North East LEP skills director; Shona Duncan, Tees Valley Combined Authority head of skills, education and employment; John Barnett, Marelli Automotive operations director; and Jeff Hope, Akzo Nobel Limited head of manufacturing; Sarah Glendenning, regional director North East CBI; Simon Hanson, North East development manager FSB; and Alison Shaw, professor of practice for student success and progression Newcastle University.

Also attending were representatives from the Association of Colleges and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

Commissioner Professor Ewart Keep presented key themes and emerging recommendations from the Commissions’ previous workshops and roundtables.

Professor Keep, who is and co-director of SKOPE at the University of Oxford, added: “Working with colleges and their stakeholders to develop our recommendations for the college of the future is critical.

“The discussion in collaboration with Education Partnership North East on our emerging recommendations for England was a great opportunity to hear both the challenges and the many examples of good practice in the North East.”