A well-respected business leader has been appointed chairman of the country’s number one-ranked college.

John McCabe has taken up the role at Gateshead College, replacing outgoing chair Robin Mackie who has been in the position since 2008.

A former president of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, John brings to the role more than 30 years’ industry experience spanning public relations, communications, stakeholder engagement and economic development.

After starting his career as an apprentice at Northumbrian Water, he moved into agency and in-house public relations roles before spending 12 years as corporate affairs director at aluminium mining group Rio Tinto (formerly Alcan). In 2013 he established a successful PR and creative design agency, Fusion PR, and earlier this year competed in the North of Tyne mayoral elections as an independent candidate.

A firm advocate of developing vocational skills, John said:

“It’s a huge privilege to be appointed chair of the top-performing college in the country. Robin has chaired the college with great distinction and can be proud of all that has been achieved by students and staff during his tenure, which has seen this organisation firmly established as the outstanding leader in its field.

“I’m also really impressed by the culture of high aspirations and success that make this the college of choice for students, businesses and for those who want to work in the further education sector. My priority now is to work with the Board and of course Judith and to help ensure that Gateshead College builds on its reputation, profile and many achievements; taking the college to the next level.”

Rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, Gateshead College is ranked the best-performing college in England for post-16 education and training, based on the achievement rates of students. The organisation works with dozens of employers across a wide range of sectors, delivering flexible vocational learning programmes that enable businesses to get the skills they need.

Judith Doyle CBE, Principal and CEO of Gateshead College, said:

“We are delighted to have John as our new chair. Robin has been a great chair and it was very important to us that, having worked hard and achieved so much in recent years, we recruited a successor to Robin who shared our ambition and aspirations. We set out to find someone who can help us take the college to the next level – and we have absolutely found that person in John. As a very well-respected businessperson, who already knows our college well and is very well known and highly regarded to stakeholders across our region and beyond, he will be a great chairman and I am really looking forward to working with him.”

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Outgoing chair Robin Mackie said:

“The college has taken time to recruit the new chairperson ensuring the correct fit for what is an aspirational organisation and that the transition is as smooth as possible. John is a well-known and respected character in the business community and comes to the role with an outstanding business network. He has fantastic credentials and the respect of employers across the North East. I’m positive he will further the colleges business aspirations and take this fantastic college to the next level.”

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