From education to employment

Strong Industry Partnership Key To Northumberland College’s Apprenticeship Success

Apprenticeship reforms have seen Northumberland College and other providers being propelled to the forefront of the North East’s skills development market as experts in delivering industry-focused, Standards programmes rather than traditional, Framework-based apprenticeships.

Working in close partnership with local organisations, Northumberland College is one of the region’s leading providers with over 1,000 individuals currently undertaking apprenticeships. Due to its close working relationship with over 500 companies, from SMEs to global manufacturers, and providing a dedicated business support team with specific knowledge of localised business needs, the College has seen high demand for its apprenticeship provision in recent years.  

Gemma Wilson, Business Delivery Manager at Northumberland College commented,

“These national reforms provide the opportunity to raise the quality of apprenticeships generally and through our excellent relationships with local companies, Northumberland College has been able to go that one step further and deliver apprenticeships that are truly fit-for-purpose, take care of our students’ well-being, advance their career prospects and produce great results on a commercial level too.

“In addition, the College’s business development team can offer bespoke and highly customised programmes to suit unique business needs and this is especially relevant for our many rural economy and niche sector clients.”

One company that has benefited greatly from Northumberland College’s apprenticeship learning provision is luxury upholstered furniture manufacturer, George Smith. The Cramlington-based company, whose furniture is in high demand amongst high worth clients, luxury hospitality venues and global celebrities, currently employs seven apprentices amongst its 95-strong workforce, and each have reaped huge benefits from standards-based learning.

Northumberland College has also gone one step further to support George Smith by enabling one of its distinguished and highly talented upholsterers to be a technical tutor on the apprenticeship programme in order to deliver a highly structured and robust, commercially-driven course.    

Jim Athey, Operations Director at George Smith explained,

“The nature of our products demand the very highest levels of skill and craftmanship, and individuals of this calibre simply cannot be hired in a traditional recruitment sense. Therefore, the training and development of apprentices is absolutely critical to our success and more importantly, the continued growth of our business.

“We have established a very strong working partnership with Northumberland College and they have supported us greatly in terms of creating, developing and delivering a tailored upholstery apprenticeship programme that meets our exact business requirements. The relationship is essential in supporting our apprentices’ success as we have been able to teach the correct knowledge, craft and theory on the shop floor and also on campus.”

Layla Welsh, Assessor at Northumberland College added,

“Our students work together at George Smith’s manufacturing facility for four days as well as at the College’s Kirkley Hall campus each week. The programme is delivered by myself and Jim and we each deliver learning to the apprentices from each others’ facilities to ensure the apprentices receive full support and continuity. The partnership works exceedingly well and with regular management meetings, we can allow for greater flexibility in line with company developments so that the students get the most out of their qualification.”

Northumberland College offers one of the largest range of apprenticeships in the North East with over 50 subjects ranging from engineering and construction to animal care and horticulture. Apprenticeships are available from level 2 and offer progression opportunities into employment or higher education qualifications. The business support team can also provide funding advice and recruitment expertise. For details please email or call 01670 841200.


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