AN education pioneer and former Government minister visited South Tyneside yesterday to launch a new initiative, aimed at boosting the vocational skills of schoolchildren as young as 14.
The Rt Hon Lord Kenneth Baker was at South Tyneside College for the start of Career College North East (CCNE), an innovative project for the specialist teaching of advanced manufacturing, engineering and computer science.
CCNE is based on a unique partnership between the college and St Wilfrid’s RC College in South Shields, and has been established to redress an existing and detrimental skills gap in those sectors.
A blend of academic work and accelerated vocationally-focussed study programmes will be delivered to provide clear progression routes into higher education, apprenticeships, further education, and work.
It is one of four Career Colleges nationally that combine academic and vocational studies in a specific industry specialism, and are aimed at those aged 14 to 19.
Addressing VIP guests at the college yesterday, Lord Baker, a former Home Secretary who served as a Conservative MP from 1968 to 1997, and who established Career Colleges, said the closure of technical schools in the post-war years were “a disaster”.
He added: “The other distinguishing feature is to get local businesses involved.
“I very much welcome the support of industry here. That is vitally important.
“I think this will be just as successful as the others. I’m very pleased to be here.”
Andrew Watts, chairman of governors at South Tyneside College and executive director of Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, said CCNE “really links to our vision”.
He added: “We want to be a college that supplies vocational education and training. It’s a new chapter in our strategic vision and we are really looking forward to it
“We will provide wonderful opportunities for young people, not just in South Tyneside, but in the region.
“Young people are the future. We have to inspire the skills of tomorrow, and we see the Career College as doing that. We will ensure the skills meet the needs of the business community.”
After the launch, Lindsey Whiterod, the college’s chief executive, said: “Career College North East is truly unique in its field of study and training.
“It is an essential step forward in helping young people gain the skills and knowledge they need to work in these vital areas of industry.
“I am very excited by the college’s partnership with St Wilfrid’s RC College, and firmly believe that the Career College will bring huge benefits to young people and to businesses across the region.”
Speakers were introduced by Geoff Ford MBE, chairman of Ford Aerospace Ltd and Ford Component Manufacturing Ltd.