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Invest in outstanding technical education for economic growth

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I am delighted and hugely encouraged to see Government placing a strong focus on technical education and STEM skills in its proposed Industrial Strategy.

These are matters close to my heart but also central to all we do at Gateshead College; something which was identified by Ofsted inspectors when they gave us an outstanding rating.

It was particularly gratifying that while the Prime Minister announced the Industrial Strategy at her first regional Cabinet meeting in the North West on Monday January 23 that the apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon came to Gateshead College to launch the strategy in the North East.

This was recognition of our national position and an acknowledgement of all the efforts being made by my college team in delivering outstanding technical education for our region.

From full time study programmes through to higher level technical training and apprenticeships, our curriculum is seamlessly aligned to the region’s economic priorities for skills development. We are here to get people work ready and give them an edge in the jobs market and that is what we do.

Minister Robert Halfon with games student Cameron Knotts and Judith Doyle of Gateshead CollegeI was able to show Mr Halfon many examples of this: the exciting, innovative work we’re doing in the construction and building services sector, where we are creating a dynamic new career pathway developing the higher level technical skills employers are demanding.

After meeting our students and seeing them studying everything from catering to robotics, as well as watching budding builders being trained in trades skills, the minister praised our Skills Academy for Construction as among the very best in apprenticeships and skills.

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It was also very satisfying for me to see the minister’s genuine interest in our innovative approach to providing high quality careers advice, which shows young people that there are many routes into a job and career.

The skills minister was also impressed by the inclusive approach we have to all of the work that we do. Providing support to learners feeling disenfranchised and disengaged is just as valuable as helping those demanding higher skills to further their potential and career opportunities. Our vision is to ensure everyone has the opportunity to access and acquire the skills to get into work and improve their social mobility and ultimately the economic success of the region. I constantly challenge my team to ensure that this approach is implicit in how we do our business.

We are fully supportive of the government’s agenda and have demonstrated that outstanding FE colleges like ours are delivering on this now. It is clear that the best of FE can be instrumental in helping the Government achieve its aspirations.

Building on and investing in the examples of exceptional technical education and training which we showed the skills minister first hand, coupled with improving access to high quality careers advice and guidance, will ensure there is opportunity for all and that our regional economy can prosper.

I believe FE colleges like ours have a great opportunity to seize the moment, and demonstrate we can be instrumental in delivering the Government’s strategy and realising its ambitions.

Judith Doyle, Principal and CEO of Gateshead College

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