Two former Sunderland College students have secured permanent roles with Sunderland City Council after impressing during their work placements and apprenticeships. 

Joe Blacklock and Ian Hall joined the council’s Infrastructure and Commercial department while studying Engineering at City Campus on an industrial placement which gave them invaluable work experience and the edge over other candidates during the apprentice recruitment process. 

Increasing their skills and knowledge while shadowing more experienced colleagues, the duo’s positive attitude, commitment and willingness to learn saw them handed more responsibility such as a site supervision role on the £70m Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor, a major development in the city centre which will bolster the local economy. 

After completing their apprenticeships and graduating from Construction and the Built Environment courses at the college with merits, Joe, from Houghton-le-Spring, and Ian, from Sunderland, have been promoted to Technicians where they are currently in active roles. 

Joe is part of the site team supervising the Public Realm Improvement Scheme at Whitburn which comprises of the installation of new clay paver surfacing, new street furniture, planting and lighting. Ian is a member of the Highways Adoption Team, supervising the adoptable works delivered by developers as part of new residential and commercial schemes throughout the City. 

Joe said: “I have really enjoyed the experience of starting off on a work placement while being at college as it allowed me to get the experience of working in an engineering environment I wouldn’t normally have gained. 

“I enjoyed my apprenticeship as I earned money while working, shadowing experienced colleagues and gaining the knowledge I would need in my new role as a technician. 

“I would definitely recommend the route I took to other students as it allowed me to get my foot in the door and know what to expect when I started my role.” 

Ian added: “The placement was a good opportunity to gain a basic understanding of the industry and an introduction to work life. 

“It helped me develop key knowledge and skills to further my career and opened up the opportunity to become and apprentice. The apprenticeship has given me the chance to go to college alongside working to gain the necessary qualifications for a better understanding of the job, which helped me gain permanent employment. 

“The whole experience has been enjoyable, and I believe that this was the most beneficial way of developing my career as someone who didn’t fully understand the industry prior to the placement.” 

Sunderland College works with major employers such as Sunderland City Council to offer industry placement opportunities through its vocational courses and apprenticeships – a careers focused curriculum which has been enhanced with the addition of T Levels in construction, digital and health. 

Students gain job-specific skills, vital practical experience and knowledge alongside their classroom learning, while organisations can discover new talent and develop a motivated, skilled workforce which is tailored to their specific needs. 

Graeme Hurst, Adoption Engineer at Sunderland City Council, said: “Ian and Joe from day one had exactly the right attitude, work ethic and commitment that we are looking for. Both students had the interest, drive and determination to succeed that was a credit to them and to Sunderland College. 

“Both had a massive advantage when it came to competitive interviews for the apprentice posts. With them spending as much times as they did in the section, their knowledge and experience made them stand out candidates. 

“At a time when the council’s Highways department was struggling to recruit appropriate apprentices, the industry placement scheme came along at exactly the right moment. 

“The chief benefits to us as an employer have been to develop a pool of potential candidates we can recruit as apprentices who have a comprehensive understanding of the work and processes involved within a Local Highways Authority.”

Christine Murphy, Business Executive at Education Partnership North East, added: “We are very proud of what Joe and Ian have achieved and we thank the Council for their excellent support with work placements and apprenticeships.

“Our TLevels and Apprenticeships are a great opportunity for students to gain valuable work experience and progress in the workplace. There is no better example of this than Joe and Ian who reached their goal of achieving their qualifications and securing full-time employment.”

Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

(Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19