Two North East institutions have announced an exciting new partnership that will help young people succeed in their education and future employment.

Newcastle College, in partnership with Falcons Community, has been named as the 23/24 season sponsor of Newcastle Rugby Foundation’s CAST programme. The news was announced at the Newcastle Falcons match against Exeter on Sunday 26 November, where a new CAST uniform was also unveiled.

The CAST is a nationally recognised volunteer and social inclusion programme, that aims to support a wide range of people to develop their social skills, improve their mental and physical health and keep them engaged with the local community.

Newcastle College and Falcons Community already work in tandem to offer unique development opportunities to students on sports and protective services courses through the HITZ programme.

Offering learners work experience with the Falcons alongside their studies, as well as access to exclusive guest speaker sessions from sports clubs, the police force, and the fire service, HITZ is designed to help develop confidence, communication, and employability skills. Many students on the HITZ programme are involved with CAST, with almost 60 students volunteering over 300 hours in the last year.

The partnership has already impacted hundreds of students, including Reece Wray, a Level 2 Sports Coaching student at Newcastle College, who was recently named HITZ Young Achiever 2023 in a national awards ceremony.

Since joining HITZ and volunteering with CAST, Reece has been pushed out of his comfort zone and improved his confidence, changing his attitude to learning along the way. Reece now plans to progress to a Level 3 qualification and aspires to become a professional coach, after discovering his passion for nurturing others in sports by mentoring Under 8s at his local grassroots rugby club.  

Reece said: “I love the thought of helping others reach their maximum potential in sports and life. Before the HITZ programme, and volunteering with CAST, I had no confidence in myself. I never thought I'd be coaching young people and completing my sports coaching qualifications at Newcastle College. I can't wait to continue my future working with CAST, Falcons Community, and coaching Consett Rugby Club. I will forever be grateful for my progress.”

After winning his award Reece added: “I feel starstruck winning this award. I want to build my skills up and help the community as much as possible. Having this is going to motivate me every day.”

Newcastle College and Falcons Community now plan to extend HITZ opportunities to students across all areas of the College, to ensure that students of all ages and abilities can benefit from the programme, and build the essential skills they need to succeed, including problem solving, leadership, teamwork and communication.

This season will also see dance students from Newcastle College providing the half-time entertainment at every home game.

Scott Bullock, Principal of Newcastle College, said: “We are thrilled to expand our existing partnership with Falcons Community with sponsorship of the CAST programme, to help even more young people prepare for a successful future.

“We are committed to providing our learners with the skills and experiences they need to reach their goals. That goes beyond the qualifications they study and ensures they have access to resources and initiatives that will help them to build essential skills such as mental resilience, relationships, communication, and social awareness.

“We consider ourselves to be a college at the heart of our community, and we’re very proud of the work we do with partners like Falcons Community, Eagles Community Foundation and Newcastle United Foundation to widen access and participation in sports and education across our community.

“I am looking forward to strengthening our relationship with Newcastle Rugby Foundation and exploring what more we can do together for the benefit of our learners and our local communities.” 

Melanie Magee, Head of Newcastle Rugby Foundation, said: “We are delighted to announce that we will be expanding our partnership with Newcastle College.  The HITZ and CAST are two exceptional programmes that provide students at the College with great opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge. Through this partnership, we aim to push students to achieve their full potential and succeed in their chosen careers. We are excited to see this collaboration grow and make a positive impact on the lives of students at Newcastle College and the community.”