The Education Select Committee visiting Gateshead College
Jamie Hardesty

Member Article

North East skills spotlight: Government turns attention to Gateshead for Industrial Strategy research

With the government looking to shape future policy on post-16 education in Britain, as part of wider Industrial Strategy plans, Gateshead has played host to a key fact-finding mission of late.

Meeting with Gateshead College staff, the North East LEP, the CBI, the Chamber and local businesses, Education Select Committee MPs have been in Gateshead recently to learn about skills challenges facing the region.

Launched in January by PM Theresa May, the strategy includes plans for a radical overhaul of technical education to address its historical undervaluation in the UK and provide a credible alternative to the academic route for young people who choose not to go to university.

The visit to Gateshead College was part of a two-day fact-finding mission by the six-strong committee, which includes North East MPs Ian Mearns and Catherine McKinnell.

The committee is conducting an inquiry into post-16 education in Britain and, once it is completed, will map out a series of recommendations for changes to current skills policy.

Several key topics were under discussion, including an examination of the recent area review process, how to boost take-up of apprenticeships and why students choose college over other education routes. The committee also got a first-hand view of the technical and vocational skills being provided by Gateshead College to students and regional businesses.

The event comes after apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon visited the college in January as part of the launch of the government’s modern industrial strategy. Since then he has championed the college’s sterling work in several media outlets and in a speech at the Westminster Academy in London.

Judith Doyle, principal and chief executive of Gateshead College, said: “We’re delighted to be helping the committee with its review of post-16 education. The modern industrial strategy is aligned with much of the work we’re doing at the college to help young people develop skills that employers need now and in the future.

“We support the government’s drive to reform technical education, which has been at the heart of our curriculum for some time. Our aim is to equip people with the skills and attributes that can help industry overcome skills shortages and become more competitive.”

Northumberland-born Neil Carmichael MP, chair of the education committee, said: “The North East is taking part in a review of its post-16 education provision and we are keen to hear about how the process is going for our inquiry on this issue.

“Gateshead College is one of the best in the country and we welcome this opportunity to learn about good practice in the sector and consider the role of further education in helping the country fill the growing skills gap.”

Andrew Hodgson, chair of the North East LEP, added: “Having a workforce that’s fit for purpose is essential for the region’s future economic prosperity. Our aim is to deliver more and better jobs in the North East and it’s therefore crucial that we have people with the right skills for these jobs.

“We are working with partners to deliver key projects and interventions that address skills gaps at all levels, from primary schools to universities, and the education select committee was extremely interested to learn about our findings.”

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