As we reach the end of Colleges Week 2021, Newcastle College Principal Scott Bullock reflects on our commitment to our communities and our responsibility to provide much more than skills and training.

Newcastle College is proud to be part of NCG, one of the country’s leading college groups. As the largest college of seven in the group, we provide high quality technical and vocational education to approximately 16,000 learners across the North East and beyond every year. Those learners come from all ages and backgrounds; apprentices, school leavers, degree students and adults looking to upskill and retrain. We’re here for all of them.

With a large campus on the edge of the city centre, supported by facilities at Cruddas Park and Scotswood Road, as well as dedicated specialist facilities that spread as far as Newcastle International Airport, Felling, Wallsend and Blyth, we are very aware of the potential impact that the College can have across the region and the opportunities that we have to serve our local communities.

The government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper released earlier this year places the further education sector at the heart of the nation’s recovery. We are central to filling the high-level technical and specialist skills gaps that have been magnified by Britain’s exit from the EU and compounded by the pandemic.

It is true that our focus, and our core business, is on developing talent for the region; closing skills gaps and contributing to the economic prosperity of the region. That, along with enabling social mobility, is at the heart of NCG’s vision. As educators, this mission provides a perfect launch pad for young people and adults alike and we work hand in hand with employers and industry partners to achieve this.

In reality, colleges offer so much more than courses and qualifications. We educate our learners on climate change and encourage them to be the difference they want to see, by instilling measures to reduce our own carbon footprint as a business and improve the environment on our campus and in our local communities. We embed mental health and wellbeing into our curriculum and provide tools and resources to help our learners become ‘mentally fit’, but step in to provide support when they need it. Overall, we play a crucial role in helping students to develop their personal skills, their employability skills and their rounded citizenship skills in order to play a proactive role in their community.

All of our curriculum areas engage in social action projects designed to have a positive impact on communities surrounding the college, from volunteering to fundraising.

This week, as part of NCG, we have launched a brand-new initiative to ensure our refugee community feel welcomed into our college. Throughout the week we have hosted a number of activities, from cooking and fashion to sport and wellbeing, bringing those from the refugee community together with other students across the college to share knowledge and explore each other’s cultures. In addition, we are continuing to fundraise and collect physical donations to support two local charities – Action North and North East Refugee Service (NERS) – to help provide essential items to those who need it. This is just the beginning of what we plan to be a longstanding project that will also encompass skills, employability and wellbeing support.

Projects such as these have demonstrable impact for our communities and it is our desire to go further and do more; something that we have committed to through the Newcastle College Strategy to 2030.  One of our strategic objectives is to lead with partners for our communities. Indeed, many of our existing partnerships support this side of what we do – our work with North of Tyne Combined Authority to support adults, and our partnership with Newcastle United Foundation to support employability of young people and adults through the Princes Trust are just two examples and we have lots more to come from those partnerships.

Our intention as we move forward is to work even more closely with our community leaders to understand their needs and how we can best support our neighbours, making best use of our facilities, our expertise and our greatest asset - our people and students.

Steve Beharall, Head of Newcastle United Foundation, said: “Our partnership work with Newcastle College is incredibly beneficial for communities around us and together we can provide a greater number of meaningful opportunities for residents in our region that go beyond traditional courses.

“With the College’s support, we’re able to deliver unique programmes for young people – from earning qualifications while playing football at national level, to eSports courses representing Newcastle United and community coaching apprenticeships within our Foundation.

“Using real-life projects, introducing clear pathways for recruitment, and listening to feedback from young people and staff, our next generation can thrive and look forward to enjoying a bright future.”

It is a very exciting time to be leading a college, particularly an anchor institution as large and as influential as Newcastle College; our ability to offer flexible, practical training aligned to jobs and to develop the personal and citizenship skills of our students is exactly what this city, region and country needs.