From education to employment

Education leader meets Prime Minister to reinforce the importance of skills and training

Photography credit: David Wood, courtesy of the University of Sunderland

Education leader, @EllenThinnesen, was invited to meet with the Prime Minster @BorisJohnson and members of his Cabinet during his visit to Sunderland last week, to reinforce the vital importance of skills and training.

She joined the University of Sunderland, alongside the city’s business and community leaders and young people, in a reception with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Members at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland last Friday.

Ellen is Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East, which includes Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College. Being an influential leader in the education sector and CEO of one of the largest college groups in the country, Ms Thinnesen, urged the Prime Minister and his cabinet members to ensure skills and training remain a government priority.  

Ellen said: 

“I am extremely grateful to the University of Sunderland for inviting myself, along with our apprentices and my colleagues from other industries across the city, to join a reception with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. 

“It was an excellent opportunity to express how critical it is that this Government ensures further education and skills, and its relationship to levelling up the North East economy, remains high on the political agenda”.  

Thanking the Prime Minister and Chancellor for the modest investment in 16 to 18-year-old funding for education and skills expected next year, Ellen reminded them that it is only a fifth of what is required and that sustained investment is vital to our country and the region’s economic future. 

Ellen expanded on discussions with Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Rishi Sunak, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, further raising the priority of funding for apprenticeships to support small and medium sized businesses across the country, and funding for training and retraining adults to support shift in workforce skills needs following Brexit.   

Ellen explains:

“We spoke about delivering on manifesto promises including a proposed and long overdue £2 billion investment in college infrastructure, and the potential opportunity that could be realised if such a fund also included a focus on supporting resource specialisation i.e. within modern manufacturing and construction technologies.”

“It was important to talk directly with Cabinet members about the proposed National Skills Fund and the significant role that Sunderland College and the wider college group, along with other further education colleges, play within the North East and across the country. 

“We talked about education reforms including English and maths, digital skills and T Levels, and the creation of Education Partnership North East. I enlightened several Cabinet members to specific examples of how education and business across Sunderland and the wider region are working collaboratively to drive forward socio-economic and skills-based priorities.”  

The Association of Colleges, of which Ellen is an active board member, is a great champion of the sector at a national level. It welcomed the opportunity that this visit provided:  

Association of College’s Chief Executive, David Hughes, said:

“It’s really encouraging to see the Prime Minister continuing to express interest in the further education sector, showing how he recognises their vital importance in his Government’s ambitions for our country.

“Along with the Education Secretary and the Chancellor, we can start to see that the tide is changing for further education. I am looking forward to the upcoming spring budget which I hope will confirm that there is investment to back up the support. Colleges are ready to play a prominent and leading role in levelling up the country and reaching the left behind people and places.”

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