Schools Minister, Lord Theodore Agnew paid a visit to one of the largest providers of post-16 education in the North East to discuss its T-Level progress.

The Minister for the further education market, visited Sunderland College’s £30m City Campus to learn more about how the College is preparing for the new T-Level qualifications.

Welcomed by Sunderland College’s Chief Executive, Ellen Thinnesen, Lord Agnew was taken on a tour of the campus’ state-of-the-art facilities and discussed how the College is improving student experience through greater industry engagement.

As an Ofsted good provider, with a strong history of delivering high-quality vocational and technical training, Sunderland College is one of only two colleges in the North East chosen by the Department for Education for the 2021 T Level pilot, to deliver the new technical qualifications.

Starting the day with a visit to City Barbers, the College’s commercial salon, the Minister spoke to Barbering Lecturer, Mark Sowerby. Mark who holds the prestigious Master Craftsman in Barbering from the Barber Council, one of the highest honours awarded nationally, said: “It was great to have Lord Agnew visit City Campus to learn how our Babering provision is directly linked to industry to enhance our students’ learning experience.”

Lord Agnew then visited an Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering workshop and spoke to Lecturer Andy Worthy and apprentices who are working with industry-standard facilities to prepare them for the world of work. The apprentices who work for local employers, including Marelli (formerly Calsonic Kansei), Faerch and the NHS demonstrated their use of industry-standard machinery to develop hands-on skills, and discussed undertaking real projects at the College, to ensure their skills are aligned to employers’ needs.

Iain Nixon, Vice Principal Partnerships and Commercial, at Sunderland College, said: “We are committed to delivering and co-designing a careers-focused curriculum in partnership with employers, to ensure our students are equipped with the necessary skills to meet the demands of industry.

“By strengthening our specialisms in growing areas of economic interest, the introduction of the new T-Level qualifications in Construction, Digital and Health will further enable us to support our students to gain vital experience essential to prepare them to enter into their chosen industry.

“We are delighted to have been selected as a key provider to launch the second wave of T Levels, which will bring significant benefits to our students and employer partners and we are very much looking forward to playing a key role in transforming technical education across the country and supporting our students to gain the essential skills and knowledge required by industry.”

T-levels are the Government’s new two-year technical study programmes. They will offer an additional pathway for school leavers, alongside apprenticeships and A-Levels.

Long term industry placements are an essential part of the new T-level qualifications. To support this, the Department for Education has introduced the Work Placement Capacity and Delivery Fund (CDF) for providers and employers to start developing the capacity and capability to deliver these work placements now, in advance of the introduction of some T-levels in 2020.

Schools Minister Lord Agnew said: “High quality technical education can not only improve prospects for some of our brightest young people, but it also open doors for employers to spot the talent they need to enhance their workforce and productivity levels, helping to boost the country’s economy.

“From what I’ve seen today, Sunderland College is brilliant at fostering that talent in young people, making sure they gain high quality skills they need to succeed and it was great to meet some of the apprentices who will no doubt be the next generation of engineers and mechanics.”

T Levels, which will be officially launched in September 2020, will follow GCSEs and will be equivalent to 3 A-Levels. They will combine classroom theory, practical learning and a substantial industry placement (a minimum of 315 hours), to ensure students gain real workplace experience.

The new two-year courses have been developed in collaboration with employers to ensure content meets the needs of industry and prepare students for work and progression to highly skilled employment, an apprenticeship or higher-level study.

Sunderland College will offer three T Level courses from September 2021 in Digital, Construction and Health.
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