A university professor and a successful business owner have been appointed as two new vice chairs at the region’s largest college group.

Education Partnership North East (EPNE) has appointed Alison Shaw, Professor of Practice for Inclusive Education at Newcastle University, and Louise Bradford, owner and MD at top regional communications consultancy Creo Comms, into the new roles.

Alison has been asked to focus on the college group north of the Tyne, while Louise will concentrate on the group’s colleges south of the Tyne.

Alison has an impressive previous track record of educational experience, gained from two decades in senior leadership roles at schools in the north east. In addition to this, as founder of North East Futures UTC in Newcastle, she worked closely with business and industry leaders to co-design curricula in digital technology and life sciences.

Louise attended Sunderland College before graduating from the University of Sunderland with a degree in PR. She set up Creo Comms, which provides strategic PR and communications advice for local, regional and national companies and organisations, in 2014. She first joined the Sunderland College board as a governor in 2015, and stepped back from responsibilities to carry out some delivery work for the organisation, before re-joining in 2019.

Alison said: “I’ve been on the board at EPNE since it was created four years ago and I’m looking forward to making even more of a contribution to a dynamic, ambitious and successful organisation making such a difference in the lives of our students.

“Northumberland College is uniquely placed to provide the skills needed for Northumberland and the wider area north of the Tyne. We have considerable expertise in priority areas identified by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) – areas such as green energy, engineering, advanced manufacturing, health and social sciences, technology and culture and tourism. And we’re very much part of the North of Tyne Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) working to provide a resilient and responsive supply of people with the skills needed to drive economic success in the region.

“We have an excellent understanding of the regional skills and training landscape, but we’re also fully in tune with the more specific local needs in Northumberland and North of the Tyne. We’re also attuned to the socio-economic disparity across our communities in the county; equally we understand both our rural and urban economies along with their demographic differences and needs.

“We know that improving skills in the north east workforce is fundamental to the region’s economic future, and at Northumberland College we’re focused on doing exactly that – working with employers and other stakeholders to identify skills needs for now and in the future, and then meeting those needs through our excellent provision.”

Louise added: ““I’m thrilled with my new role.  I am really passionate about the role education and, in particular, further education, can play in social mobility and its power to transform the lives of learners, both young and old,” said Louise.

“Education can be totally transformational to individuals, communities, cities and economies. I was really lucky to have parents who encouraged me and my sisters to carry on with our education after school – to go to college, then on to university.  It changed our lives.

“Our ambition at EPNE is to give everyone who wants it the best chance to gain high-value employment. There is so much happening in Sunderland right now – the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), the Riverside Sunderland development, the wider regeneration of the city centre and the proposal for huge new film and TV studios on the banks of the Wear. We want to give people the skills and training they’ll need to find employment at these new and exciting opportunities and enable them to play an active role in Sunderland’s transformation.

“Our collaborative work on the city’s new Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy (HICSA) is a perfect example of what we can achieve. The £20m education centre is a joint project between ourselves, Sunderland City Council and the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education.  When our ambitions are aligned to those of the areas we serve and their businesses, we can create more and better opportunities for people in the North East.”

HICSA is a world-class £20m education centre which will be delivered by Sunderland College in partnership with Sunderland City Council and the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education. A cutting-edge training facility that will see Sunderland people trained to build and upgrade the city’s homes locally, HICSA is set to become one of the region’s leading facilities for modern construction methods offset by low carbon emissions and a place for renewable energy and smart technologies to lead the UK’s drive to a greener future.

“EPNE is now a major player in the region’s educational infrastructure and Louise and I are delighted to be playing a wider role in its further development,” said Alison

James Stuart, Chair of EPNE, said: “Alison and Louise have already played important roles on our board, and through their new roles we’re going to gain even more through their experience, knowledge and networks.

“We want to be a board that matches the ambition of our senior leadership team, so inspirationally led by our CEO Ellen Thinnesen.”

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