Industry partnerships are crucial to FE success

 15 June 2016

​At Gateshead College we have a very clear strategy: to ensure that our students are the most sought after candidates in the jobs market. We do this by delivering a college experience that is underpinned by employers at every stage and listen to what the industry needs now. More crucially, we look to the future and the skills that we need to deliver so that the next generation of employees can go forth and enable our businesses to grow.

Former student Matthew Henderson won VisitEngland’s Tourism Superstar award for his work at Beamish.
Former student Matthew Henderson won VisitEngland’s Tourism Superstar award for his work at Beamish.

Our curriculum is developed in partnership with industry experts and our programmes are packed with opportunities for our learners to build relationships with employers through:

  • apprenticeships
  • very relevant work experience
  • live briefs
  • competitions
  • networking
  • volunteering
  • workshops.

By providing an education which has industry embedded throughout, by raising our students’ aspirations right from the moment they step through our door, and by working with them to develop their softer skills, we are giving our students something we call the ‘employment edge’. 

More than industry partners

I consider many of the businesses and organisations that we work with as much more than partners. They have become more like colleagues. Without them, our curriculum would not stand the test of time and our students would struggle to transition from education to employment.

I feel very privileged and proud to be part of a sector that is changing lives for the better every day.

Equally, our employer partners recognise that working with us is key to their business remaining strong and competitive, and they too have to think and act differently if they want to attract the right talent into their business. Working with colleges like us is a very effective way to do that.

As a Board member of NewcastleGateshead Initiative, the region’s destination agency, I am well placed to ensure that skills feature high on the cultural and creative agenda and that we are working collaboratively and responsively to make sure what we do is aligned with what the sector needs now and in the future.

Cultural college for the North East

As a Creative & Cultural Skills Leadership College, we are the first college that businesses in the North East of England turn to for support with their skills development. We were one of the very first colleges in the country to deliver creative apprenticeships to meet employers’ needs and we now have an unrivalled reputation as the college to work with.  

Why do people want to work with us? I believe it is because we are responsive and listen to what people really need. Our team start with a blank piece of paper (well...more like a blank Google Doc) and work with partners to create solutions to the skills issues their businesses are facing.

We developed a stage and media production programme in partnership with Newcastle’s Live Theatre and it was so successful that the theatre went on to employ one of our students as a back stage apprentice.

The team at Beamish museum came to us when they required a live events and promotions apprenticeship, and we couldn’t be more proud of our apprentice. Matthew, who was employed by Beamish after completing his studies, won the VisitEngland Tourism Superstar award last year for his ongoing enthusiasm and commitment to delivering excellence and going the extra mile for visitors. Matthew’s journey started with a six-week work placement with the museum.  

Our partnerships, such as those with the Sage Gateshead, Dance City and Metro Radio (part of the Bauer group), are providing a perfect combination of study and networking opportunities for our creative students. These programmes allow students to benefit from training within our Baltic Campus industry-standard music and dance studios while also learning from professionals within some of the North East’s leading cultural venues.

Supporting our students with industry contacts

The big bonus for our young people is that we’re supporting them to make contacts outside of the college environment and build their own networks. One such student that has benefitted from our outstanding Dance City partnership is Connor Scott. Connor won BBC Young Dancer 2015 after competing live on BBC prime time and is now in the first of three years at the prestigious Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary dance.

We’re also working with Tyneside Cinema on its new creative and digital media apprenticeship scheme, to provide skilled people for a sector predicted to be worth £1.1 billion to the region’s economy by the end of the decade.

We are seeing year-on-year improvement in our student destinations and I am in no doubt that this is down to an education that is developed and delivered by employers to meet industry needs. Last year 91 per cent of our creative industries students progressed to further study, an apprenticeship or employment. We are also the number one college in the whole of the North East for the second year running for student results.

When Ofsted graded Gateshead College as outstanding following their visit this time last year, they commended our partnerships with employers, businesses and other training providers, as well as our extensive links with the Local Enterprise Partnership, the Confederation of British Industry and the North East Chamber of Commerce and how we are ensuring the curriculum is highly relevant to learners, employers, the local area and regional priorities.

A booming North East creative and cultural sector

The creative and cultural sector in the North East is moving at a fast pace. The North East Cultural Partnership launched the Case for Culture (C4C) last year, which provides a vision for the region’s cultural development until 2030.

Focusing on arts and heritage and bringing in tourism, sport and creative industries, C4C is part of a wider push to attract inward investment to the North East. Gateshead College’s role, and our neighbouring colleges in the region, will be vital to the success of the initiative, developing the skills that people need to grow our arts, digital, sports, culture, tourism and hospitality businesses.

Hard work wins

At Gateshead College, our motto is ‘hard work wins’ and that is true for every aspect of our work. It’s something that is instilled in our students, our staff and it is what I stand for as a leader. We work hard to do the best for our students, for the businesses we work with and the community we serve.

After all, I will borrow the words of the great late Nelson Mandela here...  education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. I feel very privileged and proud to be part of a sector that is changing lives for the better every day. But the education sector cannot do this alone and that’s why industry partnerships continue to be critical to our success here at Gateshead College.

Gateshead College is our Leadership College of the Month for June 2016. Find out more about the role of our Leadership Colleges

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