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The last word: Zoe Lewis, Middlesbrough College Group principal and chief executive

Closing this edition of North East Times Magazine, Zoe Lewis,
Middlesbrough College Group principal and chief executive, highlights the education provider’s latest multi-million-pound teaching investments, its place within the net-zero economy and its delight at significant Ofsted praise.

The group recently secured nearly £7 million backing to create learning spaces for adult education, health and care and green skills courses. What will those environments look like, and how will they boost provision?

The funding will pay for a new Adult and Community Learning Centre, a new electric vehicle workshop, a retrofit workshop and a new clinical and community care simulation suite, to provide a state-of-the-art educational environment for health and care students, and bring an interactive, immersive and unique style of teaching and learning.

Those additions will build on the £12 million TTE Technical training and education centre, which will open on the Middlehaven campus in September, replacing a nearby South Bank site. What does the investment say about the group’s commitment to student learning?

In learning as in life, you need to have the best tools available to do the job properly, so we believe that, wherever possible, our students should have access to the best facilities on offer. This is particularly important when it comes to technical and vocational skills, which often need to be transferred directly to the workplace – if you’re learning things on out-of-date equipment, you won’t be job ready.

Our campus is now home to more than £120 million worth of buildings and facilities, and this investment feeds through into student experience and outcomes. We were delighted our recent Ofsted report said we had “vibrant learning environments that are very well resourced”, which meant “learners and apprentices are exposed to the world of work, and are well prepared to progress into employment”.

Teesside’s industrial landscape is undergoing significant change as firms switch to more sustainable operations. How is the group helping ensure those companies have access to the workers of today to meet such demands, while creating a pipeline of talent for the advances of tomorrow?

After ten years of investing in science, technology, engineering and maths, we are now the largest provider of engineering training for school leavers in the country, and one of the largest apprenticeship providers – through our training arm Northern Skills – in the North East. This means we have a huge responsibility to ensure we have one eye on the present, as well as one eye on the future, when we assess the specific courses and training we offer.

We have developed fantastic partnerships with employers right across the North East, and have mechanisms to ensure we listen carefully to the skills they need. And when it comes to inward investors, it is even more important we provide the support required, so we can minimise displacement from the current jobs market for local employers.

Recent examples of this include our support for Hitachi, Anglo American and, most recently, SeAH Wind, with everything from supporting recruitment to upskilling their existing workforce. We already offer training in offshore wind and have recently invested in new provision to ensure the hydrogen, retrofit and carbon capture developments can be catered for as net-zero jobs increase in the coming years.

Ofsted recently gave us a rare ‘strong’ judgment for our contribution to meeting skills needs, with our apprenticeships, adult learning programmes and student development among six aspects of the college given the top ‘outstanding’ rating.


May 9, 2024

  • Ideas & Observations

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