Sunderland College students set to explore new worlds

November 21, 2016 @ 16:25 by Alison Cowie

The Force is strong with a group of Sunderland College students who are set to explore new worlds, wonder at fantastic beasts and ride in some of the fastest starships in the galaxy.

The fantastic five, all studying on the elite NextGen course, have been invited to a selection day at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), one of the world’s most famous visual effects (VFX) studios.

The students applied for junior production assistant positions, offering an amazing opportunity to secure a toe-hold in the Disney-owned company started by Star Wars creator George Lucas.

Sunderland College NextGen course leader, Antony Cain, said: “This is an amazing opportunity for these guys to work at the most successful visual effects company in the world.

“Think of some of the most awe-inspiring movies ever made; Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Avengers, they all feature the work of ILM.”

While the positions are based in London, any successful learner would be able to complete the NextGen course with the college through the work they would be doing at ILM.

Having five learners progress to this stage of the selection process, following successful telephone interviews, is testament to the quality provision NextGen offers.

The qualification gives young people the opportunity to work alongside Oscar-winning visionaries, not only gaining insight from some of the brightest minds in the global creative community, but also gaining unique access to the digital sector workplace via some of the most respected businesses in the industry, such as ILM.

Student, Cameron Dowse, said: “I’ve always been interested in games development, but the NextGen course has shown me there’s so much more available in the industry – everything from interior design to architecture with 3D and CAD modelling, animation and visual FX.”

Student, Caitlin Sampson: “Being a girl in a male-dominated industry doesn’t phase me, if anything that, coupled with the amazing facilities at the College, just makes me want to work harder to prove girls can do it just as well. The opportunity we have to get work with ILM is incredible, but I think with the experience we’ve had on the course so far we’re all feeling fairly confident!”

Sony Computer Entertainment, Microsoft Studios, Ubisoft Reflections, MPC, Double Negative and Framestore – the latter two having recently scooped Academy Awards for their digital effects work on Ex-Machina, Interstellar and Gravity – designed the NextGen course to inspire, train and, ultimately, produce the future creative masters of the digital sector.

Sunderland is one of only five colleges in the country to deliver this industry-leading course, which has proved to be a real draw for students.

Sunderland College principal and chief executive, Ellen Thinnesen, said: “The NextGen Academy is a perfect example of what can be achieved when the worlds of education and businesses work together, but it is also an example of how talented our student body is.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for some remarkable young people. The industry standard work that is being delivered on the course is staggering and I wish this talented group the best of luck when they head to London.”

The NextGen Academy offers an interactive, technology driven learning environment. Introduced in 2015 with an intake of 50 students, this year the College welcomed 188 students onto the course, which is the result of significant investment in industry standard resources and specialists in digital, coding, animation and special effects.

In addition to working with leading industry experts through the NextGen Skills Academy, Sunderland College also work with a number of other organisations in the digital and IT sector including The Leighton Group, Sunderland Software City, Coatsink and Geek Talent.