The Last Word – Ellen Thinnesen

January 5, 2021

In the first of a new series, Ellen Thinnesen, Education Partnership North East chief executive, closes this issue of North East Times by looking at the future of the skills network and the importance of tailoring training to provide youngsters with the right attributes to thrive in the working world.

Q: The region has a strong reputation for nurturing talent into the workers of tomorrow. But if you could choose one game- changing policy that would further bolster the North East’s skills and talent pool, what would it be?

A: The world is changing, and education must not only keep up, but stay ahead. Further education really is a stepping-stone to a career, and that means we have to be not only cognizant of, but deliver against, the skills needs of business now and in the future, preparing our young people for work.

We know how digital has permeated all sectors, and I would love to see the Government support the transformation of colleges and sixth forms to allow them to deliver education that reflects the environment young people will find themselves in when they move into employment.

Properly funded, well-supported colleges are worth their weight in gold – as an economic driver to the areas we operate in through our own investment, but also in terms of the incredible workforce we nurture and develop and the impact they are able to have on businesses when they leave us.

Aligning our training and offer to the needs of employers is something I feel hugely passionate about and it’s why I am proud to chair the North East LEP’s skills advisory board.

As well as developing close links with employers to ensure we understand their needs, colleges are absolutely reliant on the Government to support us to ensure we have the funds available to invest in our facilities and deliver future-focused education, which is a major priority at Education Partnership North East.

Q: Why would this hold so much promise for the region?

A: Because we would be preparing disrupters – people who understand how technology can and will influence the future of all industries and can bring that capability to industry.

Having people who are prepared for the workplace, and can genuinely affect change within it, is critical to business and we want to develop talent with the competence and confidence to do just that.

That’s why we’re investing in creating truly state-of-the-art spaces, where our students make use of technology, and when they leave us, they take this skill into the workplace with them.

Q: Are there sufficient links between the education sector and key employers to ensure young people are prepared for the realities of the North East jobs market?

A: I’m really proud of the links we have with employers at Education Partnership North East.

We work in partnership to really understand how industry is changing and what we can do to support employers, through relevant employer-focused training.

In September, we launch our T-Levels, which will take that a step further. T-Levels will have a heavy focus on student placements and work-experience, which, paired with a focus on theoretical, academic learning, will deliver young people with skills that are fine-tuned for business.

We’ll be working in partnership with companies to deliver these new qualifications, which will set a new standard when it comes to linking training to enterprise, and we’re thrilled to offer this route to students and employers looking to engage with us to unearth the next generation of talent.

Alongside that, we are working with other educational partners across the region to develop the North East Institute of Technology, which will see us join forces to provide a natural progression route for young people and adults into higher level study and technical employment in areas such as construction and the built environment, advanced manufacturing and engineering.

Our Bede Campus will be transformed with purpose- built learning spaces and workshops featuring state-of-the-art equipment, and exceptional advanced manufacturing and construction facilities at City Campus will also be enhanced, to give students a world-class learning environment and employers the skilled workforce they need.

We are working with major local employers to deliver that – again, proof of the growing collaboration that is happening between industry and education.

Long may it continue.

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