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Business & Economy

North East adults encouraged to return to the classroom

Newcastle College is reporting a rise in the number of adults returning to the classroom to develop new skills and improve their career prospects following the impact of Covid-19.

The College has reported an increase in applications from adult students over the past year, including an 11 per cent increase for full-time courses from adults aged 19 and over*. The College is reporting this uptake during Adult Learner Week, taking place from 14th – 18th June, and will be sharing case studies and hosting an Instagram live event 12.30pm on Thursday 17th June to reach more adults looking to return to education.

Jo Phillips, director of adult education at Newcastle College, said: “The appetite for learning has had a resurgence after years of falling participation in adult learning. Whether it was initially due to an increase in spare time whilst on furlough or because of unemployment, many people are now seeing the benefits of lifelong learning, something which is of huge importance to us and the wider skills strategy from the Government.

“Continually learning throughout your life not only ensures your skills are relevant and competitive, but it also has a range of personal benefits such as boosting self-esteem and confidence and provides an opportunity to build friendships and support wellbeing.”

Former Newcastle College student David Veitch, found himself unemployed at the beginning of the first lockdown. David thought that his lack of digital skills would stop him from getting another job but enrolled on a Level 1 IT qualification and gained the confidence and skills he needed to apply for new roles. Fortunately, David was successful in securing a part-time role at his previous employer and has now been offered a full-time role.

David said: “I would like to thank the Computer and Employability course and college staff for giving me the encouragement and ability to keep trying and to not give up.”

With further changes to the furlough scheme set to happen in the summer giving rise to the possibility of job losses in certain sectors, more adults could take the decision to refresh their skills or retrain in new, emerging sectors that will act as a boost to the local economy.

The College is committed to meeting the changing needs of the region and playing an active role in the regeneration of the local economy by deploying the most needed skills to the people who need them most.

Jo added: “Whilst furlough has been acting as a safety net for many, it isn’t giving a true picture of the unemployment figures that we may experience when it comes to an end. Already, 41 per cent of adult enrolments at Newcastle College are claiming Job Seekers Allowance or Universal Credit and we expect this might increase. Alongside this, our economic landscape has changed, and the skills people need to thrive in a post-Covid world may be very different to before.

“To meet these new demands, Newcastle College has worked closely with the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) to better align our skills offer to the needs of the local labour market to reduce unemployment in the region and the proportion of working age adults without qualifications. We have ensured that curriculum mix is accessible, flexible, reflects the changing local economy and is aligned to job vacancy led skills programmes, all aligned with the NTCA Strategic Skills Plan which aims to create a skills infrastructure that is fully aligned with the needs of the local area.”

With plenty of fully-funded courses on offer, supported by the Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, an initiative launched in response to Covid-19 is allowing many adults who do not currently hold a Level 3 qualification (such as A Levels) to get back into education for free. The courses on offer from Newcastle College include English, maths and digital skills, as well as business, construction, childcare, engineering, energy, rail, health, education and automotive.

Scott Bullock, Principal at Newcastle College said: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve watched the skills, education and employment needs of the region continually change as we have adapted to new challenges. The launch of these qualifications will provide purpose and a new direction for many and we’re proud to work alongside key local stakeholders including NTCA and valued partners such as Newcastle United Foundation to embed an adult skills plan that’s robust and fit for purpose.”

Courses available through the Lifetime Skills Guarantee at Newcastle College are now open for applications to start in September. For more information and to apply, please visit